Understaffing, deregulation to blame for Imperial Metals' Mount Polley tailings pond disaster: critics

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Mount Polley is just one of six mines owned (or partially owned and operated) by Imperial Metals.  Although there is little information whether the other mines' tailings ponds could be dangerous, the Huckeberry Mine -- which is 50 per cent owned by Imperial Metals -- recently had a physical failure at SAG mill which could leave its mill out of commission for four months. 

Imperial Metals' Huckleberry mine was also a recipient of the Premier's Award for reclamation and prospecting in 2009, awarded to companies that demonstrate 'commitment to safety and the environment'. 

 Photos from Imperial Metals website
Screenshot from Imperial Metals website

Bonds: enough to cover for the damage?  

Lastly, there is the question of whether Imperial Metals will have enough money to cover for the damage caused by the tailings pond breach. Although the mine was partially financed by Sumitomo, a large Japanese corporation, that company is likely not liable for any damage. Imperial Metals' stock nosedived 40 per cent following the tailings pond collapse, which compromises its capacity to cover the financial damage of the disaster. 

A critical problem pointed out in the 2001 report was that the liabilities of BC mines far outweighed the total amount available in reclamation bonds. The report put BC mine reclamation liabilities at $400 million, but the total available in reclamation bonds was less than half that amount, at just $172 million. Another question is what would happen if Imperial Metals were to go bankrupt, as the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic did after the crude train explosion at Lac Mégantic, ultimately leaving taxpayers on the hook. 

A response from the BC government regarding reclamation bonds is pending. 

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