Groups calling for reforms in mining waste regulations following report

Last August, 24 million cubic metres of mine waste flowed into lakes and waterways after a breach of a tailings dam in central BC.

HALIFAX — More than 50 organizations are calling on governments to implement the recommendations of an independent report to prevent mine waste leaks similar to the Mount Polley disaster in BC as provincial and territorial ministers gathered in Halifax for a meeting.

In a letter to 13 ministers, the groups ask that governments implement the recommendations released in January by an independent expert panel, which reviewed the massive tailings leak.

Twenty-four million cubic metres of mine waste flowed into area lakes and waterways last August after a breach of the tailings dam at the central BC mine. The report found the dam was built on a glacial lake deposit, which caused the weakened structure to burst.

At the Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference in Halifax, BC Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said the incident at Mount Polley was discussed at the meeting and other provinces are taking a look at the report.

“I think there is concurrence across the country that we need to learn from what happened,” said Bennett at the meeting’s closing news conference, adding that his province has already committed to adopting all of the report’s recommendations.

“I believe that all of the provinces are having a look at it. Some provinces are already doing some of the things that are noted in the report.”

Ugo Lapointe of MiningWatch Canada, one of the groups who signed the letter, said it’s encouraging to know the Mount Polley incident was part of the meeting’s agenda.

But Lapointe added that the meetings were behind closed doors, so any outcomes of those discussions are not publicly known. He said that leaves him with many questions.

“What we heard today… is at least now all Canadians ministers are aware of that disaster and they are aware of the independent expert panel report recommendations,” said Lapointe just after the two-day meeting closed.

“Now we’ll have to be careful in the following weeks and months to see if other provinces and territories across Canada are implementing those recommendations.”

Bennett recently appointed a committee to determine how to best enact the report’s seven recommendations in his province, which include improving engineering practices and strengthening regulatory operations.

Some of the report’s other recommendations include creating an independent tailings review board and maintaining a detailed tailing dams and facilities inventory database, the group’s letter said.

© 2015 The Canadian Press

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