Similar tailings dam failure took place last year at Mount Polley mine in B.C. Interior
A deadly mine tailings dam collapse in Brazil has reignited concerns about safety in British Columbia where a similar collapse at Mount Polley mine last year caused environmental damage but no fatalities.
The catastrophic collapse of a dam at the Samarco iron ore mine, a joint venture of Vale SA and BHP Billiton, has left eight confirmed dead, another 21 people missing and hundreds of Brazilians displaced.
In the aftermath of the Brazil dam failure last week, both First Nations and environmentalists in B.C. are pointing to research released last summer by U.S.-based conservation groups, including the Center for Science in Public Participation, that predicted there would be more mine dam failures around the world as companies pursue lower-grade ore bodies that require bigger operations to make them economical and produce larger amounts of mine waste.
Esdilagh First Nation chief Bernie Mack said he was not surprised by the Brazil disaster given what the research says on the global pace of tailings dam failures.
The Brazil catastrophe, coupled with the Mount Polley failure, shows that British Columbia must take a precautionary approach to tailings dam safety and introduce new standards, said Mack.
He is an advocate for treating water in tailings ponds to remove metals, and then releasing it, as a way to minimize water storage and reduce the heights of dams.
“I am pro-mining, but at the same time I want it to be done using best practices,” said Mack, whose Interior community is in a region that has operating and proposed mines.
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