News Local

Mt. Polley investigation launched

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Minister Bill Bennett. (FILE PHOTO/24 HOURS)

Minister Bill Bennett. (FILE PHOTO/24 HOURS)

"The independent review and inquiry must find the reasons why this dam failed and then we must all, in a very public way, acknowledge those reasons … and address them." — Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines


B.C.’s Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett says an independent investigation into the Mount Polley tailings dam breach and third-party reviews for all dam safety inspections is the plan to “earn back the public confidence.”

Bennett said the investigation will be led by three people selected by First Nations and other partner organizations.

Dirk van Zyl, one of the panel members, said as long as sulfide is not present in the tailings, he’s expecting the B.C. spill’s impact to be mostly physical and not chemical.

“So that you don’t have the potential for acid generation and therefore more metal releases, you end up mostly with a physical impact and not with an overall chemical release,” he said.

“I can assure you that the investigation will be thorough and rigorous.”

Bennett said the panel “will have all the powers and authority to compel testimony” and evidence under the Mines Act.

Meanwhile, the second action would require independent reviews for all inspections at B.C.’s 98 active tailings ponds.

“There obviously are not 98 mines in B.C., some mines have multiple tailings ponds,” Bennett said, adding the process would provide oversight to inspections that are sometimes done by companies in-house.

He said it would be the tailings pond owners that would each have to cough up the cost of the third-party reviews.

When asked whether he would resign if the Energy and Mines ministry is proven to be liable for the incident, he said “then I need to take responsibility, and I will.”


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