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Mount Polley Tailings Dam Breach Reports & Investigations

Several reports have been published related to various aspects of the August 2014 tailings pond failure at Mount Polley mine in British Columbia. Additional investigations are still underway, from the Canadian government as well as from mine owner Imperial Metals.

Report Title/Date

Author/Description

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Report on Mount Polley Tailings Storage Facility Breach – January 2015

PolleyReport-IEEIRP

This report by an independent expert review panel analyzes the cause of the August 4, 2014 tailings breach at Mount Polley mine in British Columbia. Experts found that the design was ultimately the cause, and made several recommendations to improve the review process for both existing and future tailings facilities.

“If the inventory of active tailings dams in the province remains unchanged, and performance in the future reflects that in the past, then on average there will be two failures every 10 years and six every 30. In the face of these prospects, the Panel firmly rejects any notion that business as usual can continue.”

The impact of a catastrophic mine tailings impoundment spill into one of North America's largest fjord lakes: Quesnel Lake, British Columbia, Canada – May 2015

PolleyReport-UNBC

Researchers from the University of Northern British Columbia, University of British Columbia and Fisheries and Oceans Canada document observations of changes in Quesnel Lake and Quesnel River for two months following the August 4, 2014 Mount Polley tailings facility breach.

“The nature of waste materials now present in Quesnel Lake presents a potential hazard to the metal content of aquatic food webs and the growth, survival, and behavior of important fish species.”

Uncertainty Upstream: Potential Threats from Tailings Facility Failures in Northern British Columbia – June 2015

PolleyReport-BCFirstNations

BC First Nations Energy and Mining Council produced a summary of potential threats that may occur in northern British Columbia and Southeast Alaska due to future tailings facility failures. The report includes information on 35 tailings ponds on 48 watersheds, and notes that 3,275km of waterways are immediately downstream from these ponds. Authors call for a higher priority in protecting the environment and ensuring monetary protections are in place for communities in the event they are impacted by tailings failures.

"Nor can we as indigenous peoples afford to watch from the sidelines as others make decisions that will affect our communities, lands, and resources, both today and in the future."

Review of the Mount Polley Mine Tailings Pond Failure and Public Interest Disclosure by Public Bodies – July 2015

PolleyReport-PublicInterest

Elizabeth Denham, Information and Privacy Commissioner for BC: After complaints that the BC government did not let the public know about information it had regarding problems at Mount Polley before its August 2014 tailings breach, Denham has analyzed and reinterpreted existing public disclosure law. "Urgent circumstances are no longer required to trigger proactive disclosure where there is a clear public interest in disclosure of the information," wrote Denham. Furthermore, she has asked pertinent government agencies to reveal information they have on the Mount Polley breach if it is in the public interest to do so.

“I have been concerned about the proper interpretation of the public interest disclosure requirement for a number of years and chose this investigation as the appropriate opportunity to clarify its interpretation.”

Lessons from Mount Polley

“It’s probable Mount Polley will get a permit to open in the next couple of weeks.”  – Bill Bennett, British Columbia Energy and Mines Minister, June 30, 2015

After the tailings dam breached at Mount Polley mine in British Columbia, Canada, last August and discharged contaminants into a Fraser River tributary, Alaska developers urged the public to avoid speculation on the cause and wait for a thorough investigation to be conducted. The Mount Polley breach would provide lessons for mining companies all over the world, Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) CEO Tom Collier said. 

Now that the mine is likely to reopen, what lessons have been learned?

At the time of the breach, some Alaskans expressed concern about the dam failure for a few reasons. Mount Polley is owned by Imperial Metals, the same company that recently opened the Red Chris copper mine upstream from the Stikine River, noted as one of the largest salmon habitats in Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. Additionally, the engineer of record for the failed tailings dam at Mount Polley is Knight Piesold, the same company PLP contracted to design the tailings facility at the proposed Pebble mine.

Read more...

EPA argues for dismissal in FACA case brought by Pebble Partnership

PLPCASEupdateFederal Judge H. Russel Holland heard oral arguments Thursday in one of the cases Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) has brought against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In this case, PLP asserts that EPA violated the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) during the process of developing the 2014 Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, a document the EPA took into account when deciding to initiate the rarely used 404(c) process to consider protections for a defined area in Bristol Bay near the Pebble deposit.

EPA was in the midst of the 404(c) process last fall when Judge Holland approved a preliminary injunction that forbade further work on it until a decision could be made in the FACA case.

EPA has asked the court to dismiss the case. 

During closing arguments, Brad Rosenberg of the U.S. Department of Justice argued, “Let’s just assume for a moment that EPA had perhaps already made up its mind in 2010 or 2008 that it wanted to impose some form of restrictions on the Pebble mine site … that’s not a FACA violation. Agencies sometimes have opinions, just as this court may have an opinion on how it’s going to rule on the government’s motion to dismiss before I get up here and argue that it should do so.”

Judge Holland nodded. After hearing arguments from both sides, he said that he would make a decision as quickly as he could, but “there are a lot of issues to grapple with here.”

Read more...

Bobby Andrew, longtime activist for Bristol Bay, passes

32bobbysmilesYup'ik Elder Bobby Andrew, who had spoken out for years against the development of the proposed Pebble mine, died May 12 of natural causes at his cabin at Lake Alegnagik. The 72-year-old had frequently travelled far beyond his native Bristol Bay to speak out about the impact he believed the mine would have on the fishery and the people of the region. He spoke to legislators in Washington D.C. and to Anglo American and Rio Tinto mining executives in London (companies that subsequently pulled away from the project). He testified to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in support of its Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, and pushed for the agency to complete Section 404(c) proceedings that would limit development at the Pebble deposit.

Locally, he had served on the Alegnagik Tribal Council, the Nushagak Mulchatna Watershed Council, and the Nushagak-Mulchatna Wood-Tikchik Land Trust, and as spokesperson for Nunamta Aulukestai (Caretakers of Our Land), an association of eight Alaska Native villages in Bristol Bay. Andrew was a central character in the 2013 documentary film, "We Can't Eat Gold," in which he states, "We can't eat gold, but we can eat salmon."

Photo credit: Giovanna Marcantonio. Bobby Andrew on the set of "We Can't Eat Gold."

Bobby Andrew submitted official comments to EPA regarding its 404(c) process

Image credit: EPA public document. Bobby Andrew testified to the EPA numerous times in support of protections for Bristol Bay.

KDLG story

Bristol Bay Times story

Alaska Dispatch story

Links to some of Bobby Andrew's work speaking out about Pebble mine:

2014 Interview with Bobby Andrew, IC Magazine

"We Can't Eat Gold" documentary trailer

2010 op-ed in The Guardian, London newspaper

2013 article in The Guardian

 

 

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About Pebble Watch

Pebble Watch is an impartial, educational and fact-based initiative of the BBNC Land Department to disseminate information regarding the proposed Pebble Mine project to BBNC shareholders and interested parties. 

Produced by
the BBNC Land Department

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