No charges will be laid against Imperial Metals, the operator of the Mount Polley mine, after last year’s catastrophic tailings pond breach, which sent millions of litres of contaminated water into local waterways.
B.C. chief inspector of mines Al Hoffman has released 19 recommendations on how to prevent a disaster like this in the future.
“The findings and lessons learned bring a heightened awareness, which confirm the status quo is no longer acceptable. There are complexities within mining operations that need to be continuously anticipated, integrated and managed.”
Mines Minister Bill Bennett says the government will accept all of the report’s recommendations.
“The collapse of the damn at the Mount Polley [tailing storage facility] on August 4, 2014, may not have happened if the company and its engineers had followed better practices and done more site investigations.”
Bennett said though the company may have avoided charges, they were still required to repair the tailings pond and remediate the affected land, at a cost upwards of 70 million dollars.
WATCH: Mount Polley tailings pond breach
Stiffer penalties needed
Bennett admits the disaster gave Canada and its mining industry a black eye internationally, and that tougher tools are needed to crack down on mining companies who flout the rules.
And he says the government will introduce new legislation this spring, with penalties tied to specific industry infractions.
“We have decided to authorize the use of administrative penalties in the mining legislation. We currently, I think, don’t have enough tools to ensure compliance with the rules. We have got some tools. We can shut a mine down. We can take companies to court that sort of thing. With administrative penalties you can actually levy a penalty quickly.”
Bennett says other sanctions will also be changed to, along with the new legislation, allow the province to levy fines in the millions.
The mayor of Williams Lake is saying members of his community are happy they can soon go back to work, now that the independent review into the Mount Polley tailings pond disaster is now complete.
Walt Cobb says he trusts the quality of the treated water discharged from the tailing storage facility into the waterways.
“The water that’s going into the lake now is drinkable water, so it’s going through a filtration system and I have said I have stated that I would drink the water coming out of there.”
Cobb says the community of Williams Lake wasn’t consulted as part of the independent review, but he hopes more consultation will occur in the future.
The August 2014 breach sent 24 million cubic metres of wasterwater into local rivers and lakes, forcing residents in and around the small community of Likely to find other sources of water.
The government announced the completion of the first stage of the cleanup process this August, and the mine was given a temporary permit to re-start production.
The mine was given permission this month to discharge treated waste water into local waterways.
Last January, a report by an independent panel of geotechnical engineers found the breach was caused by flaws in the dam design that caused it’s foundation to fail.
MAP: The Mount Polley tailings pond disaster