Mt. Polley mine disaster -- Imperial Metals tailings pond rupture

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Mt. Polley mine disaster -- Imperial Metals tailings pond rupture

It's been bugging me that no thread has been started here on this.  Things developed quickly and I think those of who would have posted were busy following it on other media. This is just an explanation for a lack of chronology for people who may read back on this at some other time.

Rabble has been covering it. Here's one of the first articles.

And a recent one by David Suzuki:

Weirdly, no comments on either.

Issues Pages: 
kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

I have been following the story on the Tyee since it broke. They have published many good in depth articles since the first morning. I also find that generally the commentary on the Tyee is more progressive than on babble. Here is the first days story with video coverage of the whole spill.


Thanks, Krop. Yes, The Tyee has been awesome.


Without rehashing the entire history via media pieces, I think it's fair to say that despite official declarations of shock and confusion about how an earthen dam tailings pond stressed beyond its capacity could possibly breach, there is a general consensus among more honest people that the Imperial Metals tailings pond was being used beyond its engineered capacity, and there are engineering and workers' testimonies confirming this.

Given that, federally, Harper has allowed the reclassification of many Canadian lakes and watersheds as tailings ponds, and given that Imperial Metals had previously applied to the Ministry of Mines to start draining some of its waste into Polley Lake and what was then Hazeltine Creek it certainly appears like a convenient 'oopsie' by Imperial Metals that their pond breached into those very waterways.

The BC government has responded atrociously, first by denying the gravity of the situation (Bill Bennett claiming that it's no worse than avalanches), then by officially downplaying and outright denying the real or potential toxicity of the water and the sludge, which have entered Quesnel Lake. And now by announcing an "investigation" that still hasn't acknowledged any responsibility of the mine owner or of Bennett, Minister of Mines, who was made aware several times of concerns about the tailings pond and did nothing about it. An investigation that is also taking on a broader (and at this time unnecessary) scope, presumably in an effort to distract from the issue at hand.


The Cariboo Regional District's flyover of the spill as it was occurring. (Note: incorrect spelling of "tailings")

The "pond" was 4 square kilometres. (Some reports have it as 4 x 4 km, which would make it 16 sq km)


Meanwhile, the response from the BC NDP has been tepid, at best. They applaud the "independent investigation" (which uses "experts" appointed by the very ministry that ignored the warnings about the pond) and grumble on about documents not being released. They could be hammering on so many issues relating to long-term BC liberal governance, such as the relaxing of standards and environmental protections, the deliberate decline in mining inspections, the relationship the Liberals have to big capital in the resource sector. The other errors in BC Liberal governance and judgement that this so closely parallels.

The BC NDP needs to be the voice of outrage right now, and instead they offer nothing more than infrequent, wishy-washy statements that mirror the helplessness that BCers feel about this. It took the federal environment critic, a Halifax MP, to voice the outrage that BCers, especially Mt Polley locals, feel. Where the hell are the BC MLAs?? More evidence that Horgan is not offering a credible alternative for British Columbians. I can't support such lack of action.


After spending years talking to mining executives, engineers and hydrologists, I have learned a valuable lesson: Everything mining companies do fits into a cost/benefit analysis of risk. If they have a major mining accident and it threatens the salmon run, they simply pit that cost against the benefit of mining billions of dollars of minerals. The salmon run is not seen in the bigger picture as a food source or job creator; operating at a profit is the priority. Paying for mistakes is worth it if the math works, even if it means compromising our clean water and food.


Revised figures for the size of the spill now suggest that it is the largest tailings pond spill - ever.


ETA: and may be larger still....


Mt. Polley worker fired for reporting tailings dam concerns six months before it blows.

Let's hope his union is already on this case - !? I believe it's the USW.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

jas wrote:

Mt. Polley worker fired for reporting tailings dam concerns six months before it blows.

Let's hope his union is already on this case - !? I believe it's the USW.

It is the USW Local 1-425. That Local tends to be very BC Liberal friendly. This is the woodworking local that was the BC Liberals ally in the assault on health care unions and the HEU's mortal enemy.


Yes, I noticed that their only public statement to date  -- and that only a week or so ago -- was that they want to see the mine back in operation as soon as possible. Not too impressive from a union that, as we see here, advertises on Rabble.

In any case, I hope he pursues it because the local would be required to represent him whether they feel like it or not. And events since his firing clearly show not only were his "unfounded accusations" correct, but that he was doing the right thing by reporting them.


Bennett, Macdonald tangle over Mt. Polley

"The Mount Polley breach was not an accident. The area was not subject to a catastrophic weather event. There was no earthquake. There is no suggestion of an act of terror. It simply failed.

"And Bill Bennett, the Minister responsible for mines, knew there were real concerns with the Mount Polley tailings enclosure prior to the breach, yet he did nothing."


Crack in Mount Polley mine’s dam noted in 2010 inspection report (with report) 

Other concerns raised in the 2010 inspection report include:

• A buttress for the dam meant to be constructed along its entire length was only constructed on the west side.

• The company had continuing problems with creating tailings beaches in the storage facility, formed when tailings are deposited at the embankment. Knight Piesold noted the Ministry of Energy and Mines had identified this as a “deficiency” in a 2008 geotechnical inspection. The beach is considered an important buffer between the dam’s embankment and water in the pond.

• A recommendation that the consequence of failure ranking for the dam be reviewed, specifically considering the potential damage to downstream fish and/or wildlife habitat based on a breach for the dam’s final height. Because of the extended life of the mine, the height of the dam was expected to be higher than the original design. 

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..from an idle no more email

Four days ago the Klabona Keepers and the Secwepemc exercised their natural law and set-up a blockade at the Red Chris Mine to ensure that their land is not poisoned by another disaster like the spill at the Mount Polley mine.  Two days from now over 125 vigils for missing and murdered Indigenous women will be held from coast to coast to coast.  Two weeks ago Indigenous organizers from Idle No More and many other groups joined together for a massive Peoples Climate March in New York.  These are just a few glimpses of the powerful movement that we are a part of, a movement towards self-determination and the protection of our lands and waters.  Read more below!

Indigenous Resistance to Mount Polley Mining Disaster

BREAKING NEWS: Blockade at Red Chris Mine
The Klabona Keepers and the Secwepemc [Grandmothers Fireplace] are exercising their natural law, and asserting their jurisdiction to regulate industry in their own Territories by creating a blockade at Red Chris Mine:

VIDEO: Klabona Keepers Shut Down Red Chris Imperial Mine:
Klabona Keepers is an organization of Tahltan elders and families who occupy and use traditional lands near Iskut, British Columbia known as Tl’abāne, the Sacred Headwaters of the Stikine, Nass and Skeena Rivers.

Yuct Ne Senxiymetkwe Camp
Secwepemc disaster monitoring checkpoint and encampment at the entrance of the Imperial Metals' Mount Polley Mine.

OPEN LETTER regarding Union of BC Indian Chiefs Resolution 2014-17
“Support for Xat’sull and Williams Lake First Nations, Call for Public Inquiry and Mining Reform in the Aftermath of the Mount Polley Disaster”  Read more:Mount Polley Disaster: Support for Xat’sull and Williams Lake Nations, Call for Public Inquiry and Mining Reform

Indigenous Resistance to Mount Polley Mining Disaster
If you missed this incredible live webinar you can still check out the youtube video.  The third webinar from the #TurnTheTables webinar series organized by Idle No More and Defenders of the Land was moderated by Kanahus Manuel and included powerful testimony from Secwepemc Elder Jean William and Mining Researcher and Educator Joan Kuyak.

Left Turn Left Turn's picture

[url=]Could you imagine going two months without clean water?[/url]

Shortly after three in the morning on August 4th the residents of Likely, B.C. were awakened by a sound like massive jet engines tearing through the night. The earth-filled dam holding back nearly five million cubic metres of toxic waste in the Mount Polley tailings pond had burst, sending contaminated sludge coursing through local waterways. Two months later, their future remains uncertain.

The water in Quesnel Lake, from which most residents draw their drinking water, is now considered by most to be toxic, following the unprecedented spill at Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley Copper-Gold mine in early August.

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..from my # 17 post. an important listen in order to understand the magnitude of this spill and the importance of resistance. a description begins around the 14min mark.

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"Before they took the children away from the land, now they take the land away from the children," - Rhoda Quock

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Tahltan escalate opposition to Imperial Metals


The Tahltan Nation in northern British Columbia has once again set up a road block to stop Imperial Metals from opening a new mine.

They fear that the Red Chris Mine threatens their territory.

Imperial Metals also owns the Mount Polley Mine which, two months ago, saw its tailings pond dam fail and release millions of cubic metres of toxic waste water.

The Red Chris mine has a similar tailings pond and the Tahltan erected a second roadblock in just a month at the entrance of the mine.

In downtown Vancouver, Imperial Metals’ head office was also hit by a rally.

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On October 3, 2014 Imperial Metals, the company responsible for the Mt. Polly disaster, has requested an injunction notice to remove the Klabona Keepers elders and supporters from blockading the road to the Red Chris mine in Tahltan territory. Once the court injunction is served the elders and supporters will have 24 hours to leave the area or they will face arrest.Red Chris Mine is located on Mt. Todagin, where the Klabona Keepers carry on their ancestor’s wishes to protect the land through the guidance of their elders. After hearing from Secwepemc people impacted by the Mount Polly disaster, Klabona Keepers will not give their consent to the destruction of their traditional territory, the decimation of their salmon and moose, and pollution of pristine water. They have set up a sacred fire called Estsu Kun’desk’āke (grandmothers fireplace) at the entrance of Imperial Metal’s Red Chris Mine.Their continued defense of the territory and opposition to the mine has great weight after the Tshilquotin decision has affirmed the collective title and jurisdiction of unceded and unsurrendered Indigenous Nations and territories. In 2006 when Red Chris was owned by BC Metals, the Klabona Keepers first began blockading to protect their territory. They exercise their sovereign rights, asserting their jurisdiction to regulate industry in their own territories. “We can not be blinded by money. The land and water is the lifeblood of our nation and we will not compromise. We are doing this for our future generations.” - Elder Mary Quock.


Cop visits Imperial Metals blockade.


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The Klabona Keepers were given an injunction this morning at the Imperial Metals blockade.
Imperial Metals will have their case heard in Vancouver this Wednesday at 10am at the courthouse on Smithe Street.
If the injunction is approved, the RCMP will come in for arrests.

"Injunctions are a state tool to remove us from our lands"

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Imperial Metals taking legal action for damages from Blockade


In an Oct. 3 filing, Imperial subsidiary Red Chris Development Company Ltd. said the blockaders — from the Klabona Keepers and the Secwepemc — “will not allow anyone or any supplies through” to reach the project site.

“An enforcement order is required as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have taken the position that they will not enforce a court order for an injunction without an enforcement order,” Imperial said.

Currently, according to the application, blockaders are letting people leave the site as long as supplies aren’t being flown to it instead.

Imperial said it has been using air transportation to “bring in essential materials” — food and fuel had relied on ground transportation previously.

“They advised that if helicopters were used to support the project by bringing personnel or supplies to the project site, then no one would be allowed to leave,” the company said in its court document.

Imperial, meanwhile, has also filed legal action for damages.

“Red Chris has been forced to severely limit its construction activities at the project site, and if the blockade continues, will be forced to halt them altogether,” Imperial said in court documents.

“This may cause Red Chris to delay operations, lay off employees and cancel or limit the contracts it enters.”....


This Wednesday the injunction will be taken to court in Vancouver at 10:00 am, with presentation from the applicant.




Thank you for your ongoing posts re the Tahltan....There is to be an October 24th meeting in Kamloops involving the Shuswap Secwepemc Nation and their settler allies to develop strategy re the protection of their entire is time for some radical envisioning and proposals re governance within their Territory, given that the government in Victoria has proven negligent in their fiduciary obligation to protect the Territory in exchange for the benefits accruing.....

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No government, Company, or Police force has jurisdiction on unceded Tahltan territory


The Keepers agreed to these terms on August 23, but returned to the mining roads on September 29 and set up camp. What brought them back to the blockade?

“A few women came up from Secwepemc territory and did a presentation about what happened at Mount Polley,” said Klabona Keepers spokesperson Rhoda Quock, who I reached by phone on Saturday.

One of those women was Kanahus Manuel, Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society member and co-founder of a resistance camp I visited at Mount Polley’s entrance road in August. She brought photos and testimony from the spill site—claiming virtually nothing has been done to contain the metallic sludge and sediment in Quesnel Lake, Polley Lake, and Hazeltine Creek. “The elders cried,” Manual said. “That first day we spoke it was like a funeral.”

“If Imperial could just walk away from the disaster at Mount Polley and the government is not doing anything about it, it could happen again and nothing would be done,” Quock said of her renewed opposition, adding the community of Iskut is 11 miles from Red Chris. “This became a major concern for our elders—that’s why the blockade was put up again.”

This time the company sent security and Red Chris mine manager Tim Fisch, who coincidentally managed Mount Polley’s operations when the massive spill happened in August. “He just got transferred in September,” Quock said. (Fisch confirmed his transfer to Red Chris on camera last week.) “We’re very concerned—Fisch was at Mount Polley for a very long time.”


The injunction signals an escalation, which the tribe met with calls for support from their Secwepemc, St’at’imc, and Tsilhquot’in allies. “There’s really a heightened sense of urgency,” said Manuel, confirming a convoy of Secwepemc elders and warriors were heading up to the camp Sunday.

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Connecting The Dots Between Mount Polley Mine Owner, Squamish LNG, Harper


As it turns out, we are are both quite content to continue with the "investigation" into Woodfibre LNG, because the more we look into it, the more bawdy it appears.

With the curtains slowly opening around politicians and corporate owners, the sordid, unholy bedfellow goings-on would make Ron Jeremy blush. (Cover your eyes now children and those pure of heart.)

Indeed, could the ongoing "investigation" be so easy, so simple? Consider that Byng Giraud is the vice-president of Woodfibre LNG. But guess for whom he used to work, beginning in 2010 as vice-president for "corporate affairs including government relations, community relations, aboriginal affairs and communications"? Does Imperial Metals, the company that owns the Mount Polley mine, ring a bell?

That's right, the mining company that has just poisoned Quesnel Lake, Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek and Cariboo Creek, the entire Quesnel and Cariboo river systems right up to the salmon-bearing Fraser River.

The natural question is now (one that the investigation into this tragedy up north will hopefully pursue): What responsibility does Mr. Giraud share in this environmental catastrophe?

(At the time of this writing, the proposed fine for this gross maleficence is $1 million. No, it's not a typo. And yes, it does sound like Dr. Evil from Austin Powers. But that's just how our government rolls these days.)

For those of us back in Squamish, Howe Sound, and North Vancouver -- facing the irascible Mr. Weston -- we have every right, politically and morally, to scrutinize Mr. Giraud's track record.

Yet, in the world of politics -- especially the sort that Harper and his lieutenant, Mr. Weston imbibe -- it's not at all surprising Weston now gives a shoutout to Giraud in his new capacity of vice-president at Woodfibre LNG.

But, dear reader, you ask, "Why would the federal Conservative Party be so interested in a vice-president of an aspiring BC LNG facility?"

Again, as Mr. Weston wishes, as more time is allowed for investigation, the grainy image is getting clearer. But not in Mr. Weston's favor.

Does it also surprise you Mr. Giraud has close connections to Harper's Conservative government? How close?

Again from his bio: "Byng has extensive political experience at the national, provincial and municipal level, serving in senior advisory roles to provincial MLAs, federal MPs, senators and with B.C. ministers. He has managed or participated in over 20 federal, provincial and local elections across Canada. He has served as a director and vice-president, Western Canada on the governing council of the Conservative Party of Canada with Prime Minister Stephen Harper."

Astonished? Why? We shouldn't be. Really. Most of us are adults and not political rubes. Not in British Columbia.

But we should still be outraged....

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Says Kanahus Manuel of the Yuct Ne Senxiymetkwe Camp near Mount Polley:

In light of the Tsilhqot’in case, injunctions must not and cannot be used as a tool to displace Indigenous Peoples from their homelands anymore.


Imperial Metals granted injunction to remove Klabona Keepers Blockade

Imperial Metals was granted a injunction to remove the Klabona Keepers Blockade today, The Enforcement order was granted but held over until Oct 14.

The Klabona Keepers see a silver lining in the Injunction being not permanent. If Imperial Metals gets final approval to start up, today’s order will be void and the Blockade can return.

Imperial gave too short of notice and that the proceedings from now on would go thru the courts in Terrace, one of the main things the elders wanted so they can attend and prepare for the hearing, outside the court house Art Manuel said he was surprised by the ruling, “injunctions are rubber stamped 99% of the time”  something’s changed.

More to Come.... the courthouse

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Imperial Metals Injunction Against Klabona Keepers Red Chris Blockade Fails in Court

PRESS RELEASE: October 8, 2014

Unceded Coast Salish Territory

Today was a historic day for Indigenous Nations and Peoples connected by the water, the salmon, the moose and by inherent right, responsibility and jurisdiction in their territories and homelands. Imperial Metals, on short leave, applied for an interlocutory injunction and enforcement order against the Klabona Keepers Red Chris mine blockade and sacred fire lit on September 29th 2014. In a historic move, Justice Grauer did not grant the interlocutory injunction or the enforcement order.

The injunction application was heard today in the Supreme Court of British Columbia in Vancouver at 10am. Imperial Metals’ Steve Robertson was in attendance. The corporation was represented by three lawyers from Fasken Martineau. Three women from the Tahltan and Secwepemc Nations, three women who lit sacred fires in response to Imperial Metals Mount Polley disaster and out of concern and love for land and life represented themselves and were successful. First in petitioning the court to hear and approve a change of venue application to Terrace so that the Elders and youth can attend, witness and speak to the application. Second in blocking the interlocutory injunction and immediate enforcement order from being approved. The Judge instead issued a non-permanent injunction without an enforcement order to be immediately applied. The enforcement order is instead held off until October 14, 2014 to allow time for the rightful titleholders of the land to respond and gather in traditional governance structure to reach consensus on how to respond to the temporary injunction.

“Ultimately, this is an incredible victory – not only for the Klabona Keepers, but for all Indigenous Nations connected by the water and the salmon. Our incredible allies from Secwepemc territory, Kanahus and Anushka, and Klabona Keeper, Loretta, overcame all odds in the colonial court today to seek justice.” –Klabona Keepers statement.

“Injunctions are one of Canada’s last colonial instruments used to dispossess Indigenous Peoples of their land but pressure from the grassroots community is causing the colonial government to retreat. Today’s decision puts the injunction in question as being a sure form of remedy for corporations like Imperial Metals acting with impunity and without consent.” -Arthur Manuel, Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade (PDF HERE)

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Big thanks to our friends in Calgary for this action at the hockey game last night.

Murray Edwards, part owner of the Calgary Flames, has big shares in both CNRL and Imperial Metals.
CNRL is responsible for one of the biggest bitumen spills in the tar sands up in Cold Lake, Alberta.
Imperial Metals is responsible for the Mount Polly tailing pond disaster in BC.

Instead of Murray Edwards having consequences for his companies negligence, water contamination and destruction, our elders are the ones being presented with an injunction and arrests. Our elders have never contaminated anyone's drinking water and have been stewards of these Sacred Headwaters for thousands of years.



Epaulo, you do realize that the `Klabona Keepers`are considered to be a somewhat rogue element within the Tahltan FN?  Not that I disagree with them, but FN internal politics can be quite complex (FNs, mini FNs, Bands, Clans, Houses, etc. within each).

The Tahltan Central Council leads Tahltan FN decisions (not the Klabona Keepers):

ELECTED just this past summer as president of the Tahltan Central Council, 27-year-old Chad Day has come under heavy criticism for comments made about a Tahltan faction that's been blocking access to the nearly-completed Red Chris copper mine which is located on Tahltan traditional territory.

Through Facebook, Day referred to the Klabona Keepers as a "handful of Tahltans [who] have turned this entire situation into a circus."

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..i am aware that there are differences. though not in any way expert i understand that this will be dealt with internally.

The Klabona Keepers withdraw from the Tahltan Central Council

An open letter to the Tahltan Central Council and the BC Government in regards to the Tl’abāne territory.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Dear Chad Day [President of TCC],

Throughout the past week the Klabona Keepers have witnessed Chad Day, president of Tahltan Central Council, post insulting and derogatory comments on facebook towards the Klabona Keepers, who are members of the TCC.

“A handful of Tahltans have turned this entire situation into a circus and there are clowns, both Tahltan and non-Tahltan, speaking out everywhere” Chad Norman Day

As a leader of the nation, we feel he is supposed to represent us not dictate to us. As of today, the community members that use, occupy and protect the Tl’abāne territory, signed below, withdraw our names from the Tahltan Central Council.

The Klabona Keepers’ elders and youth have successfully protected the Tl’abāne from unsustainable development that puts our future generations at risk. If it weren’t for us, Royal Dutch Shell would have extracted natural gas in the Sacred Headwaters to the detriment to the Skeena, Naas and Stikine rivers. At times our actions have been met against the wishes of the Tahltan Central Council.

The Tahltan Central Council is solely a society registered through the BC Society Act, this does not respect or recognize our sovereignty and responsibility to manage and make decisions on these lands collectively. The Tsilhqot’in decision proved that title and rights has to be held collectively by the users and occupiers of the territory. We collectively use and occupy the Tl’abāne with the traditional guidance of our elders. That means all decisions with this land have to go through us. Tahltan Central Council cannot use “Klabona Keepers” name in government meetings anymore for leverage.

We choose not to compromise our lands, water and culture. We live on the land and have a right to self-govern ourselves rather than have an imposed centralized government society represent us.


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..each time i hear this story told i learn something new.

The Truth Unfolds_Part-1 Mount Polley Mining Disaster

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Klabona Keepers Protect Elders and Families As Enforcement Order Goes Into Effect


The Elders at the Estsu kun’desk’āke (Grandmothers Fire) in response to and out of grave and serious concern following the Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley Mining disaster and the continuing construction of Imperial Metals’ Red Chris Mine, have sent a letter of summons to the members of Imperial Metals and the government at both provincial and federal levels to a meeting on October 14, 15, 16, 2014 to address their past, present and continuing violations of the Tl’abanot’in (people of Klappan—Klabona Keepers) Natural Law and Jurisdiction at the Estsu kun’desk’āke, Red Chris Mine entrance.

Today, the Tl’abanot’in (Klabona Keepers) are ordered by the BC Supreme Court off of their own land through an interim injunction and enforcement order. Imperial Metals, on short leave, applied for an interlocutory injunction and enforcement order against the Tl’abanot’in (Klabona Keepers) before meeting with the elders to discuss the current Red Chris Mine blockade. As the enforcement order comes into effect, the RCMP have the discretion to arrest the Grandmothers, Women and Youth on the Red Chris Mine blockade.

How many more Elders need to go to jail to stop this destruction of the water, the land, the ancestors, and our future generations? Today the Tl’abanot’in (Klabona Keepers) and their supporters moved the Estsu kun’desk’āke to the side of the Red Chris Mine road to avoid criminal charges that would inhibit them from fighting the larger issue at hand....

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Ts’ka7 Warriors Burn Down Imperial Metals Ruddock Creek Mine Bridge

Warrior Publications received the following communique:
Secwepemc Ts’ka7 Warriors deactivate Imperial Metals Ruddock Creek mine road.
International Statement, October 14, 2014

With much discussion with Elders Councils and around Sacred fires and ceremonies the Secwepemc Ts’ka7 Warriors have acted out their collective responsibility and jurisdiction to and in the Ts’ka7 area by deactivating the Imperial Metals Ruddock Creek mine road.

Imperial Metals Corporation never asked for or received free, prior and informed consent to operate in Secwepemc Territory.  The Imperial Metals Mount Polley mine disaster, in the area known as Yuct Ne Senxiymetkwe, the absolute destruction and devastation of our Territory has never been answered for.  No reparations have been made.    Instead Imperial Metals continues to force through another mine in our Territory while criminalizing the Klabona Keepers of the Tahltan Nation also exerting their jurisdictional and withholding consent from the same company....


Warriors burn bridge, demand mining company behind Mount Polley toxic spill leave territory


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The Truth Unfolds-Part 2_ Mount Polley Mining Disaster

Sub Titled: "The Big Picture". Filmed at a community meeting in Vancouver BC / Part-2 contains an even more "Explosive" report on the outrageous background of neglect and questionable behavior by Imperial Mines which lead up to the gigantic tailing pond spill at their Mount Polley BC mining location.
Hear and see reports from local citizens on the total environmental devastation which this has created .

Hear the First Nations call for solidarity in the fight to see that their lands are not further destroyed and that this is never allowed to happen again. Listen to Alexandra Morton's shared thoughts on how this will effect all living things in this area for countless years.


This situation is despicable - Bennett needs to do the honourable thing and resign. Fat chance though.


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Imperial Metals has been represented by Fasken Martineau's Global Mining Group.

Fasken Martineau/People/Howard Hampton

No wonder Mulcair has just announced his appointement as special advisor to kick-start the Ring of Fire...He didn't mention Fasken Martineau of course.

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Unions, First Nations seek ‘whistleblower’ protection during Mount Polley dam collapse probes

Unions representing government inspectors and engineers and Mount Polley mine workers, supported by First Nations, called on the B.C. government Wednesday to provide “whistleblower” protection to workers who provide information to an expert panel appointed by the government.

The three-member expert engineering panel recently made an unusual call for public submission on the cause of Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley gold and copper mine tailings dam collapse....


You know I have a pretty big opinion on this tragedy. Moving the topic away slightly from the whistleblower angle, there are some serious issues surrounding this failure that i have seen in every province where i have worked, from Ontario to BC.

Namely, the basic engineering competency levels at both the regulator and the miner are not at a level that is required to safely operate, maintain, inspect, or audit operations. More or better regulations are useless in this current dynamic, as the ability of either the regulator or industry to actually implement or monitor them is not possible.

Simply, this failure occurred because the tailings deposition process built up the berm of the tailings pond outwards. This can be ok in the right circumstances, but you must be able to balance land and the tailings height (depth) with how fast you move back your tailings pipe. Once you hit your design cap, you have to know that a base failure is imminent. The first time they asked for an extension to the depth (size) is when the tailings pond should be done. Basic competency in engineering should have ended this issue then, and that was years ago.

Sadly, I see these basic competency gaps everywhere. It is almost as if there is a dumbing down of technical professions, and an unwillingness to apply basic scientific fundamentals.

Usually however, it manifests in a regulator with competency gaps making industry do something stupid, which provides industry with concrete examples of idiocy, which are them used for arguments of over regulation (successfully, I might add).

As sad as this event was, any third year civil engineering student could have easily predicted it.


Prairielover wrote:
You know I have a pretty big opinion on this tragedy. Moving the topic away slightly from the whistleblower angle, there are some serious issues surrounding this failure that i have seen in every province where i have worked, from Ontario to BC. Namely, the basic engineering competency levels at both the regulator and the miner are not at a level that is required to safely operate, maintain, inspect, or audit operations. More or better regulations are useless in this current dynamic, as the ability of either the regulator or industry to actually implement or monitor them is not possible. Simply, this failure occurred because the tailings deposition process built up the berm of the tailings pond outwards. This can be ok in the right circumstances, but you must be able to balance land and the tailings height (depth) with how fast you move back your tailings pipe. Once you hit your design cap, you have to know that a base failure is imminent. The first time they asked for an extension to the depth (size) is when the tailings pond should be done. Basic competency in engineering should have ended this issue then, and that was years ago. Sadly, I see these basic competency gaps everywhere. It is almost as if there is a dumbing down of technical professions, and an unwillingness to apply basic scientific fundamentals. Usually however, it manifests in a regulator with competency gaps making industry do something stupid, which provides industry with concrete examples of idiocy, which are them used for arguments of over regulation (successfully, I might add). As sad as this event was, any third year civil engineering student could have easily predicted it.

This is interesting, Prairielover. I hope you have some professional or mainstream venues in which to raise this issue.

From the news reports we heard that the first engineers of record, Knight Piesold, cited concerns with how their original design was being modified, then declined responsibility for the dam from that point on, and then did not re-bid for the Mount Polley contract. Not sure who the current engineer is there.


Jack Caldwell from I Think Mining:

I am afraid that if I truly wrote what I believe & know, all associated with the tailings facility would sue me.  Just like in Grisham’s novel.  For the fact is that the original designers had been warned for years that the embankment design was subject to potential failure.  They used the same design at dams that have also failed but of which I cannot write.  They were beholden to an ancient approach to dam construction used in South Africa, but not suitable for BC, yet cheap to do in BC and thus beliked by local mining companies.  They never made the necessary change from South African practice to the differences of BC conditions.

The report from the appointed investigative panel is due out at the end of this month.


And another one:

Talked with people this week on the upcoming expert-opinion report on why the dam failed.  The resigned opinion of one very close to the process was: “It is going to make a wave; it is going to criticise the system & design; but it will all be a temporary wave and we will soon be back to the calm waters of business as usual.”  Maybe there is reason to protest, and maybe the protestors should include representatives of the BC Professional Engineers Association.


Here are some question guidelines–if you have others please comment.

  • Have they identified the engineering causes of failure, and what are they?
  • Do they identify responsible (guilty) parties and who are they?
  • Do they recommend actions to prevent ongoing tailings failure (at least four a year)?  And if so what do they recommend?
  • Do they ascribe failure to individual, corporate, institutional, or technical factors, and if so what are they?
  • Do they address all the issues in their scope of work and if not why not?

Mount Polley breach report out tomorrow (today for those who may have to prepare public statements).

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

Mount Polley spill report finds flaws in dam design

The long awaited independent review of the Mount Polley tailings pond spill was released Friday.

It details what went wrong when one of the walls burst sending millions of cubic metres of toxic sludge and waste water into the surrounding waterways in north central British Columbia.


Design failure caused Mount Polley tailings breach, expert panel concludes

The design of the tailings pond dam at the Mount Polley mine that collapsed catastrophically last summer failed to address the unstable foundation on which it sits, a flaw that was compounded over the many years that the dam was repeatedly raised to accommodate a growing lake of toxic waste....


Timeline from report of events that led to Mount Polley breach

The Mount Polley crisis was a long time coming. A report on a breach last year of the tailings dam at the Mount Polley mine said the dam had raised incrementally to meet the requirements for upcoming years. A lack of long-term planning eventually contributed to a catastrophic dam failure, the report said....


Good research e13