Mount Polley Tailings Pond Disaster
Hume's article offers a simple logical argument saying, "The dam didn't fail because of an act of god or black magic by some anti-mining necromancer. The dam failed because of its design, or its construction methods and materials, or its flawed operational management. While the mining company Imperial Metal is accountable for the design, construction and operational management of the dam it deploys to contain its hazardous mine waste, the provincial government is responsible for ensuring that the design is adequate, the construction methods are fully up to current safety code, and the dam is properly operated. Adding, "Clearly, this did not happen. So the prescribed design, the construction methods and materials or the operational management standards and the government’s approval, monitoring and enforcement protocols must be inadequate in some way."
Considering that both the original engineering firm that designed, built and maintained the original compound warned Imperial Metals of the impending problems when they abandoned ship and the engineering firm that took over, AMEC said the railings pond's level was to high and instructed the company to bring in five million tonnes of rock to shore up the outside of the dam in order to handle the increased amount of water in the tailings pond two things seem apparent: 1. the company didn't listen or didn't want to hear what the engineers were saying. 2. the engineering firms aren't going wear this disaster or the liability for it.
Likely B.C. resident Gerald MacBurney worked at Mount Polley for seven years, the last two as a foreman directing work on the tailings dam says "the company never carried through, perhaps only bringing in one million tonnes of rock because they didn’t want to take their large equipment - big haul trucks that can carry as much as 120 to 200 tonnes - away from delivering ore to the mill." MacBurney said he raised the issue with bosses numerous times, at one point warning one of them that if the rock wasn’t brought in, the dam would break. His concerns increased after what he calls a breach in May 2014. He says he saw water spilling over the top of the dam, (while Imperial Metals says there was no breach). He quit the next month.
MacBurney's story is consistent with internationally respected independent mining expert Jack Caldwell's assessment of 'What caused the Mount Polley tailings pond failure?' Jack's long career brings a historic perspective when he says, "My first impression is that this is in a direct line of failures from Bafokeng, through Merriespruit, to now. Nothing has changed, this failure looks just like the failed Bafokeng dam looked when I went out to see it the week after it failed way back in the earlier 1970s. As at Bafokeng, I suspect it was a combination of overtopping, piping and basal failure. We will probably never know for sure as the evidence is washed away to the lake or strewn on the ground downstream of the failed facility. Thus some still claim that at Bafokeng the bulldozer sent to raise the embankment induced liquefaction of the wet tailings."
Wonder what the operator of this stranded Cat has to say eh!
Then there's the independent report conducted by Brian Olding, the environmental consultant who carried out the 2009 assessment for the company and local First Nations groups, that issued several warnings about the safety of the tailings pond and dam. Olding says in a very good interview by the CBC [available here], "The pond levels were already getting too high five years ago. I requested a structural engineering company be involved, and that was nixed," Olding said. "They did not want to deal with that problem at that time."
The B.C. Ministry of Environment also revealed to reporters that it had warned the mine operator of exceeding safe drinking water guidelines in the tailings impoundment, including high levels of selenium, sulphate, and molybdenum. Long before the May warnings about the height of the tailings pond itself.
All in all Imperial Metals had plenty of warning and even though they knew what the potential danger was they not only continued with business as usual Imperial jacked up production in the months just before the disaster as the Vancouver Sun reported: "Imperial has increased production at Mount Polley. The company reported in its second-quarter financial report that throughput at the mine’s processing mil was up to 23 per cent to 23,404 tonnes of rock per day and meal production totalled 12 million pounds of copper, up 46 per cent, 11,867 ounces of gold, up 24 per cent and 33,813 ounces of silver,up 35 per cent from the same quarter a year ago."
There's more to the tangled web of financial sewage and there's the whole issue of why the industry ass kissers in the B.C. government are so desperate for royalties and party contributions that they'll do anything and everything for a buck. But those parts will have to wait for the next Mud Report because my finger is tired and, the highest priority in my life, my best friend needs to go for a walk. So fully independent it must be 'cause the guberment has plenty to be scared of a deep pockets fed by your tax dollars for the liability lawyers to chase and Imperial Metals, no matter how willfully ignorant and dastardly they may be will have their bankruptcy ducks in a row.