More questions than answers on Mount Polley mine disaster

THURSDAY MORNING EDITORIAL — In no way should the seriousness of the Mount Polley Mine situation be under-estimated. While the immediate consequence is a ban on using surface water in the surrounding area even for so much as bathing, the potential long-term consequences are much more severe.

Among them are the loss of livelihoods among those who rely on the natural surroundings of the Cariboo and on the mining industry for jobs, not to mention a huge economic impact on the mining industry in general, plus environmental impacts that have yet to be assessed.

Mount Polley - junkThe Imperial Metals president’s claim that water from the tailings pond that burst on Monday is almost drinkable is, probably rightly so, being brushed off as an attempt at corporate damage control.

But let us not indulge in too much editorial hyperbole and political finger waving, either.

Much is being made of the fact the mine received several warnings from the B.C. Environment Ministry. Why didn’t Imperial Metals do something to avoid the burst wall in the tailings pond?

The provincial government, of course, is taking its share of heat, with analysts looking to budget cuts or lack of oversight as likely culprits.

Yet, as the Environment and Mines Ministries have explained, the five “advisories” handed out to the mine between August 2012 and this past May paint a less dramatic picture. The first warning was in connection with “exceedance” — trust government to come up with a word like that — of the height limit of effluent for a perimeter pond.

The next two were for not submitting monitoring data of one of the mine’s groundwater monitoring wells, and the next was for a blocked pump system that allowed overflow that was redirected before it reached a creek.

The most recent, in May, was for exceeding the height of effluent in the tailings pond, which gradually returned to the authorized level.

Certainly, such things should not be taken lightly. Some experts and past employees are being quoted as saying the company and government should have seen it coming, and maybe that will be shown to be so. There must be accountability for what happened.

And maybe it will be found that one or more of those five warnings is in some way connected to the spill but, at the moment, there are a lot more questions than there are answers.

About Mel Rothenburger (7200 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

1 Comment on More questions than answers on Mount Polley mine disaster

  1. Lyman Duff // August 7, 2014 at 6:59 AM // Reply

    Let us not forget with these “cowboys” at the helm we have had more than a dozen years of build-up of questions and very few answers in return. The future is worrisome and not only for the salmons.

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