Montana takes action on mine waste after B.C. dam failure – by Gordon Hoekstra (Vancouver Sun – June 7, 2015)

New laws spearheaded by industry after Mount Polley dam failure

The pollution caused by last summer’s dam failure at the Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley and the recommendations from an expert panel this January are having effects in the United States.

Six weeks ago, Montana changed its laws in response to the B.C. mine disaster, entrenching in statutes design standards for mine waste-storage facilities, qualifications for engineers and requirements for independent review panels.

The law changes were spearheaded by industry through the Montana Mining Association and sponsored by Republican state Senator Chas Vincent.

In B.C., the mining industry has been cautious in its response to the expert panel recommendations, which included the call for the independent review panels made up of senior geotechnical engineers. And while the B.C. Liberal government says changes are coming, it has said a review of provincial laws could take at least a year.

Montana Mining Association executive director Tammy Johnson said it wasn’t an easy decision to propose increased regulation but the changes were needed to ensure public confidence in mine dam safety.

Johnson said she believes the new laws are the most rigorous guidelines for mine-waste storage facilities, often call tailings ponds, in existence. “It’s not a guidance document, we made it hard and fast law,” she said.

Johnson said they acted quickly after the Mount Polley dam failure because the Montana legislature only meets once every two years and industry didn’t want to wait until 2017 to make changes.

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