Mining Minister announces independent review of Imperial Metals' Mount Polley disaster
Mining Minister Bill Bennett pledges to "take responsibility" if his ministry's negligence is found to have contributed to the Mount Polley tailings breach.
Mining Minister Bill Bennett announced an independent investigation into the Imperial Metals Mount Polley tailings disaster today.
The panel of geotechnical experts, who were appointed with the support of the Xats'ull (Soda Creek) First Nations and Williams Lake band, are:
- Norbert Morgenstern, an advisor to consulting engineers
- Steven Vick, a geotechnical engineer who was involved in the investigation of the New Orleans' levee failures in 2005
- Dirk Van Zyl, a UBC mining engineering professor
Although the BC government has asserted that the cause for the tailings pond failure is unknown, a former Imperial Metals' employee, as well as engineers and independent consultant, had warned about the tailings facility's flaws in the past. In particular, consultant Brian Olding had specifically warned in 2011 that more water was coming into the pond than was going out, and former Imperial Metals foreman said in a recent interview:
"I've talked to everyone, and there is no leading theory." Bennett asserted at the press conference, adding that the disaster came as a shock to everyone. "Tailings ponds are monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week....there are people on the dam on a regular basis."
Van Zyl, who was also present at the press conference, said he was "quite bothered" by the Mount Polley disaster, noting that most people don't expect such disasters to take place in British Columbia.
He said there was worldwide interest in the Mount Polley disaster, and that it was too soon to say what the environmental impact of the tailings failure would be.