EDITOR: | December 28th, 2015 | 4 Comments

Tailings Dams and Due Diligence – An Addendum

| December 28, 2015 | 4 Comments

The following report on the Imperial Metals, Mount Polley tailings breach shows a well measured response by the British Columbia regulator. Use such examples to improve a co-developed future – not punish a shared past. This way tailings dam due diligence can be enhanced without fear of repercussion in an environment of true transparency.

British Columbia (BC) energy and mines minister Bill Bennett has said that the provincial government will not charge Imperial Metals for the Mount Polley tailings dam failure.

The breach occurred at the Mount Polley copper and gold mine tailings pond on 4 August 2014 in the Cariboo region of central British Columbia.

The dam failure released its water and slurry with mining waste into Polley Lake and continued into nearby Quesnel Lake and Cariboo Creek.

In response to the findings and recommendations of the chief inspector of mines’ (CIM) investigation into the tailings storage facility (TSF) at the mine, Bennett said that the government will introduce new regulations and guidelines.

The CIM report found that the dam failure occurred as the strength, as well as location of a layer of clay underneath the dam was not considered during the design or in subsequent raising of height of the dam.

Chief inspector of mines Al Hoffman said: “We conducted a very thorough and in-depth examination of the Mount Polley Mining Corporation’s actions from its initial site investigations 26 years ago to present.

“We determined that while the mine did not contravene any existing regulatory requirements, its management and operational practices failed in a number of areas.”

“Through our investigation, we determined that while the mine did not contravene any existing regulatory requirements, its management and operational practices failed in a number of areas such as water management and misplaced confidence in the TSF design.”

Hoffman made 19 recommendations in seven categories directed toward the mining industry to avoid another dam collapses.

The recommendations require all mines with TSFs to have a designated mine dam safety manager and an individual to oversee the mine’s water balance and water management plan.

These mines should also have water management plans designed by a qualified professional and engage independent technical review boards.

So as in Part 3 of the tailings dams series (Part 1, Part 2), treat the tailings dam with due respect to the hazard and properly engineer its construction and properly manage its operation and closure.

Steve Mackowski


Mr Mackowski is a qualified engineer in mineral processing with over 30 years technical and operational experience in rare earths, uranium, industrial minerals, nickel, kaolin ... <Read more about Steve Mackowski>

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  • Tracy Weslosky

    Steve, this is an utterly fascinating series, and have genuinely appreciated your wisdom and professional expertise on tailings dams — especially for those of us very interested in our environment. I found the above footage online from the University of BC and it was posted July 29, 2015 and here is the direct link: https://youtu.be/JMIORbuebYk

    Sounds like (as in everything) a little planning with the benefit of an expert can go a long way.

    December 28, 2015 - 12:11 PM

  • Steve Mackowski

    Thanks Tracy. Just as the media attempts to influence the power of the people, we engineers look at energy in different ways. Tailings have hydraulic energy, we all understand electrical energy, but tsunamis, cyclones, etc all have vast energy that can confront us.
    Again you are right. It’s all about planning. Plan to prevent if you can. Plan to minimise impact. And plan to minimise consequences.
    Just the same as managing our kids. 🙂

    December 30, 2015 - 3:16 AM

  • Jim Hogg

    I wish to ask,
    Q on the video the stone in the river bed,
    Is it granite?? Or limestone ??

    January 4, 2016 - 4:54 PM

  • Steve Mackowski
    January 4, 2016 - 7:12 PM

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