VANCOUVER — After 16 months of deliberation, B.C.’s chief mine inspector has concluded that Imperial Metals (TSX: III; US-OTC: IPMLF) will not be held liable for the catastrophic failure of its Mount Polley gold and copper tailings dam and storage facility, 56 km northwest of Williams Lake, B.C.
The investigative report states that the dam failed because the design of the original facility and subsequent raises did not consider the strength and location of an underlying clay unit. However, this crucial geotechnical oversight did not contravene any existing mining laws, according to the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines.
In a press release, the ministry commented that the company exercised “weak practices” during the mines’ operation, but there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant further investigation and penalty.
“We conducted a thorough and in-depth examination … from its initial site investigations 26 years ago to present,” Al Hoffman, the mine’s chief inspector, said in the release.
“We determined that while the mine did not contravene any existing regulatory requirements, its management and operation practices failed in a number of areas, such as water management and misplaced confidence in the tailings site facility design.”
The dam failed in August 2014 when a clay layer in its foundation slipped without warning, and 25 million cubic metres of mine waste and water spilled through a massive breach in the dam and into a nearby stream and lake.
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