Engineering firm expressed concerns about Mount Polley mine

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Engineering firm expressed concerns about Mount Polley mine

The engineering firm that designed the tailings dam and storage facility at the Mount Polley Mine, which had a massive breach this week,  has issued an online statement, saying it had warned both Imperial Metals, and the province, the structure was getting too big, and action needed to be taken.

The Vancouver office of Knight Piesold says it ended  involvement with that facility in February of 2011.

It went on to say changes in design and engineering since then mean it can “no longer be considered a “Knight Piesold limited design”.

See the full statement from the company below:


August 8, 2014, Vancouver, British Columbia: The breach of the tailings storage facility at Mount Polley is an extremely unfortunate incident and Knight Piésold Ltd. shares the concerns with respect to the effects to local communities, First Nations and the environment.

Going forward, there will be a comprehensive examination of this incident and there will be questions about the engineering and design of the tailings storage facility. As the former Engineer of Record of the tailings storage facility at Mount Polley, we feel it appropriate to provide some clarity and transparency of the role of Knight Piésold Ltd.

Knight Piésold Ltd. informed Imperial Metals that we would not continue as the Engineer of Record for the Mount Polley Mine on February 10, 2011, and subsequently ceased to perform that role. During the time we acted as Engineer of Record, the tailings storage facility at Mount Polley operated safely and as it was designed. A third party Review Panel provided independent review of the tailings impoundment design during initial construction and permitting during 1995 to 1997.  In 2006, while we were Engineer of Record, an Independent Third Party Dam Safety Review by AMEC Earth and Environmental confirmed that the three embankments were well-designed and well-constructed entities from a dam safety perspective.

Since February 10, 2011, Knight Piésold Ltd. has not had any responsibility or knowledge of any aspects of the design, modifications or performance monitoring of the tailings storage facility at Mount Polley.  The original engineering done by Knight Piésold Ltd. accommodated a significantly lower water volume than the tailings storage facility reportedly held at the time of the breach.  Significant engineering and design changes were made subsequent to our involvement, such that the tailings storage facility can no longer be considered a Knight Piésold Ltd. design.

Upon completing all assignments as the Engineer of Record in 2010, Knight Piésold Ltd. wrote to Mount Polley Mining Corporation and to the Government of British Columbia’s Chief Inspector of Mines and stated that “the embankments and the overall tailings impoundment are getting large and it is extremely important that they be monitored, constructed and operated properly to prevent problems in the future.” (See letter dated February 10, 2011). A formal handover of design, construction and monitoring responsibilities was conducted on March 8, 2011 when AMEC Earth and Environmental was acknowledged as the new Engineer of Record for all future work at the Mount Polley tailings storage facility.

Knight Piésold Ltd. is not familiar with, and therefore cannot comment on, the details of the incident, or on the design, construction, operations, water management practices or any other aspects of the Mount Polley tailings storage facility.

Knight Piésold is an international consulting group providing engineering and environmental services for the mining, power, water, transportation and construction sectors.  With offices around the globe, our team of over 800 experienced professionals delivers high quality specialized services and innovative solutions that respect social, environmental and economic responsibilities.


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    • Not at all.
      It’s simply an intelligent move to set the record straight.
      With all the misinformation and hysteria it would have been a matter of time before the original builder was blamed and raked through the media mud.
      Since AMEC Earth and Environmental took over the tailings pond answers need to come from them.

  1. In their statement above, Knight Piésold Ltd didn’t say specifically that the tailing pond walls were going to fail, so it was a surprise to the company and the government that it did.
    So that’s their story and they will stick to it.

  2. According to one of the local papers, the majority shareholder held a private and expensive fund raiser for Clark. I smell a rat and for that matter why has this station not made mention of this ???

    • Of course they would- why would anyone associated with a resource industry want someone like Adrian Dix to win. The last two times the NDP took power the BC industry was decimated.

      • Kelly. Just what does that, according to an article in The Vancouver Sun, have to do with the controlling share holder N. Murray Edwards have to do with the stench that comes from holding a one million dollar fund raiser for snookums? I’m sure she didn’t do anything for them after the election!!

        • I would think it’s kind of obvious that people who are in the business of mining would do their damnedest to ensure a party that is openly supportive of development, governs the province.
          The stench form anything Edwards exudes is on par with union and environmental groups supporting the NDP and the current mayor of Vancouver.

  3. Everyone who ever had anything to do with this will be coming out of the woodwork saying “it wasn’t me, it was that guy” or “I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so”. But then, who would jeopardize their business credibility when they can come out early in the blame game?

    It’s also interesting that it’s often the one who quit or was fired that has so much to say.

  4. This event shows that a 50 to 60 year unblemished record of no spills in BC means absolutely nothing. It only takes one company to put profit before environmental concerns to ruin it for everyone.

    Of course anyone who had anything to do with the tailings pond and terminated their relationship will explain why. And there is a trend. The blame seems to be shifting to the mine management and perhaps others..

    It’s not only the ones who were previously involved with the mine. This story has legs and there will be ample time to zero in on the persons or organization responsible.

    The FNs thankfully will ensure that we will learn the truth before this mine crushes another ounce of ore. Those who blindly defend the mine may be in for a big surprise.

  5. We need political contributions with the same limits as federal guidelines here in BC.
    It obvious money can buy a gov. in BC, because of lack of regulations on contributions, and no limits on those contributions. This is american style election where companies can buy their way into gov. by large contributions.

  6. Incidentally, Imperial Mines and the largest share holder of I.M., N. Murray Edwards hedged their bets after hearing the pre election polls and donated to both the NDP and the Liberal election campaigns.
    These “Princes of Commerce” do not car which political party rules. That is only for us boozo’s, the voters. The “Princes of Commerce”, have both and all parties in their pockets.
    Can’t you tell. Politicians always say one thing then side with those that pay for their election campaigns.
    There is a good article in the TYEE about the election contributions to the last BC election