New rules for tailings ponds based on findings from Mount Polley collapse

Contents from a tailings pond is pictured going down the Hazeltine Creek into Quesnel Lake near the town of Likely, B.C. on August, 5, 2014. Four months after a torrent of mine water and waste gushed into two south-central British Columbia lakes, the province says the mine's owner is only at the forefront of a clean-up that is expected to take years.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

VANCOUVER - The disastrous collapse of the Mount Polley mine tailings pond in B.C.'s Interior last year has spurred new provincial environmental requirements for similar operations.

Developed in collaboration between the ministries of environment and mines, mining firms must consider the possibility of a disaster and evaluate the environmental, health, social and economic impacts of an accident.

The changes mean companies must also include in their assessments the best-available technologies for tailings ponds and options for water balance to enhance safety and reduce the risk of a tailings dam failure.

The Environmental Assessment Office will evaluate tailings management options and decide whether the mining company's plan adequately addresses potential risks.

The new rules are based on the findings in the Mount Polley Independent Expert Investigation, prepared by a panel chaired by Norbert Morgenstern and released in January.

The investigation started weeks after the mine's tailings pond dam collapsed in August last year, sending 24 million cubic metres of silt and water into nearby lakes and rivers.

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