News Local

Tailings dam raised 7 times since 1996

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Mount Polley mine. (REUTERS)

Mount Polley mine. (REUTERS)

The B.C. New Democrats say there’s more questions than answers revealed in the government’s release of Imperial Metals Ltd.’s Mount Polley mining permit.

Norm Macdonald, NDP energy and mines critic, said on Wednesday the paperwork came out after two weeks of hounding from the opposition.

“As you go through it, you have questions (on things that happened) in the past,” he said.

“When we have questions of that sort we face incredible blocks from government to get even the most basic information.”

For example, the mining permit shows government had given three separate approvals to raise the dam after the original tailings dam engineer, Knight Piesold, separated from the Mount Polley project in February 2011.

They left a warning that the tailings impoundment was getting large and needed monitoring.

Macdonald said it raises questions, then, why government approved raising the dam twice in 2012, and a third time in 2013 — for a total increase of 9.5 metres.

“Which is only going to exacerbate the problem — at the same time not dealing with the applications to deal with the build-up of water in some other way,” he said.

Prior to the new engineer AMEC taking over, the dam was raised seven times since 1996, according to the permit — increasing to 960.5 metres in August 2011 from 934 metres in September 1996.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said earlier this week the company had not reached the maximum height allowed at the dam at the time of the breach.

“They were very close to the maximum height allowed to the original design — but not over,” he said.

Bennett added the permit was published promptly — and that the delay was due to the size of the permit document, which exceeds 200 pages.

(Correction: The previous headline had said the dam was raised seven times since 1996. The correct number is 10. There were seven approved raises between 1996 and 2011. Three approvals after 2011.) 

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