BC Calls for Independent Third-party Review of Tailings Ponds Across Province

BC Calls for Independent Third-party Review of Tailings Ponds Across ProvinceIt's been two weeks since the breach at the tailings pond for Imperial Metals' (TSX:III) Mount Polley copper-gold mine, and already the repercussions for other mining operations are trickling in. On the heels of the BC government's announcement that it will be investigating the spill, nearly 100 other mining companies across the province have been ordered to conduct independent, third-party reviews of their permitted tailings impoundments.

According to a Vancouver Sun report, an independent panel of experts in the field of geotechnical engineering will make recommendations to the BC government on roughly 60 tailings sites, including inactive mines. "These inspections would need to be completed within 90 days," the news outlet notes.

As Mining Weekly states, "under the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in British Columbia, the deadline for a normal yearly dam safety inspection would have been March 31, 2015 and would not have required an independent third-party review."

The accelerated review is geared at rebuilding public confidence and trust in the industry, which was understandably shaken following the breach — it poured 10 million cubic meters of waste water and 4.5 million cubic meters of silt into salmon-bearing lakes and rivers. As mentioned, other efforts include BC Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett's appointment of a three-member panel to conduct an independent investigation into the dam failure. Beyond just determining the cause of the failure, the panel will also look into provincial standards, design and maintenance of the dam as well as the inspection regime. Recommendations from the panel are expected by the end of January 2015.

As Karina Brino, president of the Mining Association of BC, commented to The Vancouver Sun, "[t]he messages we have been delivering since the incident of Aug. 4 support the measures being announced. It is important for us to understand the cause of the breach and adopt any necessary measures to ensure this does not happen again."