The government of British Columbia, with support from the Soda Creek Indian Band (Xats’ull First Nation) and Williams Lake Indian Band, has ordered an independent engineering investigation and inquiry into the Mount Polley tailings pond breach, and independent third-party reviews of all 2014 dam safety inspections for every tailings pond at a permitted mine in the province.
A panel of experts will investigate the cause or causes of the breach, and will include geotechnical standards, design of the dam, maintenance, regulations, inspections regimes and other matters deemed appropriate for investigation.
The panel members are Norbert Morgenstern, an advisor to consulting engineers, Steven Vick, a geotechnical engineer from Colorado, and Dirk Van Zyl, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Normal B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering.
Recommendations will be made through a final report by Jan. 31, 2015, that will determine why the tailings dam failed.
The chief inspector of mines has also issued an order to all mining companies to conduct a Dam Safety Inspection for every tailings storage facility at a permitted mine by Dec. 1, 2014. Under the order, those inspections must be reviewed by an independent, qualified, third-party, professional engineer from a firm not associated with the tailings facility. All information obtained under this order will be provided to First Nations and made public.
There are currently 98 permitted tailings impoundments at 60 operating and closed metal and coal mines in B.C.