Tailings pond at Mount Polley Mine near Likely on Aug. 4

Tailings pond at Mount Polley Mine near Likely on Aug. 4

Outside investigation promised for Mount Polley

"There has to be some independent oversight and insight into that process," Mines Minister Bill Bennett says

Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines, expects to announce this week how the province will handle the inquiry into the Mount Polley tailings spill, and how the government will deal with tailings ponds throughout the province.

Bennett said he agrees with calls for an independent investigation into the tailings pond dam failure.

“There has to be some independent oversight and insight into that process,” Bennett told CKNW radio.

NDP energy and mines critic Norm Macdonald says an inquiry is definitely in order, but it should be independent of the government. Macdonald says the B.C. Liberal government bears responsibility for the spill because they have cut the number of people who do inspections significantly.

“Inspections at mines have fallen by 50 per cent since 2001,” Macdonald said.

Bennett said the reduction in inspections relates to gravel pits, aggregate producers and placer mines, which process surface gravel for minerals. Annual geotechnical inspections of large mines such as Mount Polley have not been reduced, he said.

Mine inspectors also visited Mount Polley in May of this year after the tailings pond exceeded its allowable water level during spring runoff. Bennett said the pond was restored to the permitted level, and it is the only such report on record for the mine.

Brian Kynoch, president of mine owner Imperial Metals, said the pond level was 2.5 metres below the top of the dam and within the permitted operating level when the breach occurred Aug. 4.

Ministry of Environment records show the mine has had an effluent permit since 1997, and has operated since startup with a water surplus due to precipitation. In 2009 the company applied to amend the permit to allow discharge of up to 1.4 million cubic meters of water a year to discharge dam seepage effluent into Hazeltine Creek.

That permit was approved in 2012 after an independent report was commissioned to examine water quality impacts from sediment and contaminants, and measures needed to control them.

With the mine and its tailings facilities expanding and an exhausted pit being converted to underground mining, Mount Polley applied for another amendment to discharge up to three million cubic meters of treated water to Polley Lake.

That permit amendment was being considered at the time of the tailings dam breach.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Police will be out in force to target drunk drivers this weekend as part of ICBC’s annual CounterAttack campaign. (Contributed - ICBC)
Police launch Christmas CounterAttack this weekend

On average, 11 people are killed in crashes involving impaired driving on the Island every year

Victoria police arrested a man in a Yates Street grocery store Nov. 27 after he refused to wear a mask. (Black Press Media File photo)
Belligerent man arrested in Victoria grocery store after refusing to wear mask

Officers fined the man $230 under the COVID-19 Related Measures Act

A 43-year-old woman is facing charges for impaired driving and leaving the scene of a crash after attempting to flee from police by driving down the beach in front of the Oak Bay Marina on Nov. 23. (Oak Bay Police/Twitter)
Victoria woman drives over seawall onto beach near Oak Bay Marina

Driver faces charges for fleeing crash, refusing breathalyzer test

Friends with Dorothy opens in Victoria.
LGBT2Q+ lounge Friends with Dorothy opens second location in Victoria

The Kelowna-based lounge plans to open in Victoria mid-December

Sig
Traffic delays expected on Monday from highway construction in Sooke

Single-lane alternating traffic between Otter Road and Caldwell Road

A woman wears a protective face covering to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 as she walks along the seawall in North Vancouver Wednesday, November 25, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
911 new COVID-19 cases, 11 deaths as B.C. sees deadliest week since pandemic began

Hospitalizations reach more than 300 across the province

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Freighter anchored off Kin Beach in Chemainus. (Photo by Don Bodger)
MP to host expert panel for virtual town hall on freighter anchorages issue

Residents can participate through MacGregor’s website or Facebook page Dec. 3

Most Read