Province announces independent investigation into Mount Polley spill disaster

Vancouver, BC, Canada / (CKNW AM) AM980

Independent eyes will take a closer look at what sent millions of cubic metres of industrial waste gushing in to B.C. waters two weeks ago.

“This is obviously a very serious incident. It is a disaster.”

Mines Minister Bill Bennett says the government will do all they can to restore public confidence in mining in the province.

“First, an independent investigation into the tailings dam breach at Mount Polley, which will be led by an independent panel. Secondly, the Chief Inspector of Mines has ordered an independent  third party review of all dam safety  inspections for every tailings pond at a permitted mine in British Columbia.”

Bennett says if the government is found to be at fault he will take responsibility.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Rustad says the Soda Creek and Williams Lake First Nations will be given $200,000 each to cover costs linked to the August 4th spill, such as food.

But he’s not saying if that money’s coming from taxpayers or the mine operator.

“All of the expenses that go through are something that we will be looking at. I think it’s too early at this stage to say just what will be the complete list. The parties agree that the entities responsible be required to pay for all costs and damages incurred.”

The leaders of both First Nations say the confidence of British Columbians has been shaken by this disaster, but they’re both pleased to be included in the review process.

UBC Engineering Prof Dirk van Zyl says failures like this are about one in a million per year.

“You always hope it never happens at home and  this time it did and so it’s a great force that’s released when you have such a failure.”

He says large failures like this and investigations of them often find there could be a number of ways the breach could have happened.

Despite Bennett’s assurances this investigation will be ‘independent,’ money is being raised to fund testing with no government involvement.

“Because there’s a lot of concern out there about the quality of the government testing that’s been done so far and the testing that they’re planning to do in the future.”

Aaron Hill with the Watershed Watch Salmon Society says First Nations and University of Northern BC scientists are already taking their own samples, but they need money to complete their analysis.

“We’re going to be in touch with expert advisers to ensure that we allocate the money in the best possible manner and we’re also going to be donating every dollar that we raise directly to monitoring efforts.”

Hill says government leaders have been downplaying the significance of this disaster, but results made public over the weekend prove the impact on local wildlife could be serious.

Donations can be made online at watershedwatch.ca or by mailing a cheque to the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, 1037 Madore Avenue, Coquitlam, BC, V3K 3B7 and noting it is for Mt. Polley mine spill monitoring.

Meanwhile, the Mount Polley disaster has halted plans for a mine near Smithers which includes extracting up to 30-thousand tonnes of copper and gold every day over a 21-year period.

The environmental assessment of the proposed Morrison mine has been suspended, pending the outcome of the Mount Polley probe.

Environment Minister Mary Polak says a key problem with that open-pit project is tailings storage.

“Since that is the focus, of course, around the concern with respect to Mt. Polley, it was my view that it was appropriate to suspend our consideration until we had to access to the information coming from that investigation.”

Comments

  1. “This is obviously a very serious incident. It is a disaster.”

    Who are you quoting here with that word disaster?

    “Aaron Hill with the Watershed Watch Salmon Society says First Nations and University of Northern BC scientists are already taking their own samples, but they need money to complete their analysis.”

    I have a feeling that they could find the money, in cash, in an instant. If it turns out to be money spent due to someone else’s negligence, that is what courts are all about.

    “Donations can be made online at watershedwatch.ca or by mailing a cheque to the Watershed Watch Salmon Society, 1037 Madore Avenue, Coquitlam, BC,”

    This is a very ineteresting address. I am not sure that too many Canadians will be rushing to send money to an Native admisitrator of the Coquitlam Band after last week’s revelation that their “cheif” was paid almost $ 1MM last year.

    • Do you mean that its sad that YOU don’t trust the gov’t?
      Do you think the gov’t wants the locals contaminated?
      Do you think that Liberal (or maybe its the fed’s you don’t trust) politicians are there doing the testing?

      You don’t speak for the rest of the province.

      There have been three that all same the same thing.

      Are you saying that you would trust the “findings” of an investigator hired by a native group that has an interest in the outcome?

      WHERE ARE THE DEAD FISH?

      • David,
        don’t paint me with that brush…that’s called slander…I didn’t vote for them and I haven’t given them any amount of marks for anything.

        I would trust the findings of the Min. of Environment regardless of which party is the gov’t. Despite my trust however I would want an independent second or third opinion. I am sure that will be the wishes of the MOE investiagtors too. They want it to be done right.

  2. why is Bennett taking on the role any smart, educated “leader” would? a “good” leader would be out in the frontline ensuring everything was being done to amend this situation, but in this case, a “good leader” is an oxymoron. where is the vapid one anyway?

    why will this investigation take until January 2015?

  3. Well despite the fact that this is a one in a million per year event, “disasters” (unquote) do and can occur. I don’t know if there are a million tailings ponds (active or otherwise) in the world but three tailings-pond dams have failed in recent memory. There is no sense in denying that.

    The goverrnment inspects mine tailings-ponds and dams. The breach occurred within the time frame during which inspections were conducted by government. Accordingly, there is absolutely no doubt that government policy and inspection procedures were in effect. Therefore, in order for an investigation to be seen as completely independent, no government bureaucrat or organization can conduct the nvestigation.Otherwise, if the government investigates its role, if any, it would be like the fox guarding the chickens-as I posted last week.

    So the government made the correct decision because as Polak, herrself, suggested that government cannot be trusted to investigate itself. CC obviously did not make the final decision.

    Mr. Bennett revealed that one of the qualified investigators was involved in the New Orleans levee breaches during hurricane Katrina. Whether that involvement is germaine to this investigation remains to be seen because no external event (ie., heavy rain, storm or seimic event) was apparently known to precede the Mount Polley dam breach.

    • It’s not that there is a suggestion that Polack believes the government can’t be trusted, It’s a matter of optics and politics.
      And who is going to investigate the independent investigators? Or, the independent investigators that investigate the independent investigators? There’s a lot of mistrust of the scientific community among the public (you know the public that ultimately pays for their salaries). Do we really have to get into the mistrust created by the Global Warming “Scientists” and the UN lovelies and their manipulations of ‘facts’? Or now about all the Chicken-Little predictions over the last 40-50 years that seemed to never come to fruition. I still have 500 boxes of warming mitts I purchased as a result of the Global Ice Age scare.
      More and more we are getting into the time when wrong will become right and right will become wrong.
      Personally I think it’s all the Russian’s fault – possibly the UFO’s. I hear they tried to do a crop circle on the side of the dam and that caused it to weaken.

      This will end up just as another way to spread taxpayer wealth around. What half-black president mentioned something about sharing the wealth – OPM of course.

      • I prefer to take Polak’s comment that governments can’t be trusted at face value. She should know.

        At least when third parties are called into conduct an investigation, the public, perhaps not you, will have confidence that they will leave no stones unturned as well as and will also investigate the role of government in this one in a million disaster.

        You had to be dumb to have purchased 500 mitts in anticipation of an ice age when its all about global climate change. It will get warmer before hell freezes over.

        • Insite, as usual you are full of it.
          Where did Polak suggest the Government couldn’t be trusted. This is a another example of ‘don’t let the facts ruin a good bs rant.
          You really seem to have trouble between the reading of a statement, and what was actually said.
          That is why you are wrong more often the right But, it is the BCTF/NDP way, isn’t it

  4. A possible Bennett lie? Judge for yourselves. Don’t you think he does his best to pass the blame torch away from government???

    “So far, there are no leading theories for the collapse, Bennett said.

    “This shocked everyone, I think, especially the engineers who were responsible for the dam,” he said. “It’s not like these tailings dams are way up in the middle of nowhere and nobody pays any attention to them. They’re monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

    After all, it was the design engineers who warned the mine that the pond was becoming too big. They even let the BC Liberal government know that the tailings pond was becoming too big. When they told the mine they were no longer going to be involved they let the mine know once again that the tailings pond was becoming too big. What does it take to get that message through to the honorable Billy Bennett? It certainly looks like Billy is running scared!

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