MLA REPORT: Mount Polley mine disaster should be a wake up call

Mount Polley mine disaster resulted in serious environmental damage, job losses and black eye for mining industry, says MLA Norm Macdonald.

In addition to representing your concerns in the Legislature, I am also responsible for monitoring and critiquing BC Liberal mines policy.

This summer saw the collapse of the retaining wall at Mount Polley Mine near Likely, in British Columbia’s Cariboo region. This disaster led to 25 million litres of waste material and fluid pouring into pristine Quesnel Lake.

This truly devastating failure was described by Mines Minister Bill Bennett as not much different than your average avalanche. This description by the man in charge was both dismissive and hugely inaccurate.

Not only did this event result in serious environmental damage, it also led to job losses and a black eye for our mining industry.

There have been over 20 tailing pond collapses worldwide since 2001, and they are almost always the result of sloppy design or poor maintenance. They should never happen, and British Columbians would expect that our government would ensure that they wouldn’t happen here.

We know that the BC Liberals cut provincial employees who were responsible for monitoring mining. 30% of the staff that used do this work are no longer employed by government. The number of mine inspections is half the number completed in 2001. This lack of oversight tarnishes our province’s reputation as a jurisdiction that takes environmental assessment seriously, and that can impact not only the world’s view of our mining industry but also that of other resource-based industries.

And we know that there are no real penalties levied against companies that fail to comply with the law. There is little enforcement and virtually no punishment for those companies that do not fulfill their responsibility.

We know in the years leading up to the collapse of the retaining wall at Mount Polley, the provincial government permitted substantial increases in mining beyond the design capacity of the Mount Polley tailings facility.

We know the engineering firm that designed the tailing facility warned government there were dangers in how the tailings pond was being managed.

We know government was informed in 2010 about cracks across the front of the retaining wall that ultimately collapsed.

We know there were reports of water breaching the retaining walls this past May.

The Mount Polley disaster really should be a wake up call to every British Columbian. If you go to bed at night thinking that this government is doing its job protecting workers, rural communities and our land, lakes and rivers, you would be mistaken.

Mount Polley proves, once again, that we need to demand better.

Norm Macdonald is the MLA for Columbia River-Revelstoke and the NDP critic for mines.

 

Just Posted

Revelstoke roads and weather: mix of sun and cloud

Heavy rains have destabilized the snowpack. Be careful in the backcountry

Future of heli-skiing unknown with caribou recovery plans

CMH presented to Revelstoke city council this month to outline its impact on the community

Support for Penticton shooting victim

A GoFundMe has been started for one of the four people killed April 15

Annual Nk’maplqs Challenge Cup returns easter weekend

The goal of the Vernon-based event is to revitalize the game and the tradition of an all-native hockey tournament in the Interior.

Home Hardware to give away free Reusable Shopping Bags in honour of Earth Day

“We feel we have a responsibility to keep our ecological footprint as small as possible”

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Shuswap dancer stays across street from Penticton shooting day after Salmon Arm tragedy

Dancers come for festival, put in lockdown in rec centre, watch police response from Airbnb window

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Chaos at the ferry terminal for people heading from Vancouver to the Island

Easter crowds create backlog at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

COLUMN: Bunnies, sexuality and the freedom to read

A book about a gay bunny has been the subject of challenges

Vernon-raised BC Was Awesome producer returns home for filming of episode

The topic of this Vernon-featured episode has not yet been revealed.

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Most Read