My Turn: Mining disasters must end with Mount Polley

Bill Bennett, Juneau Empire, 24/02/15

From: Bill Bennett is the Minister of Energy and Mines for the province of British Columbia.

It’s unfortunate your editorial has seized upon the Mount Polley mine tailings storage facility failure to undermine the long tradition of respectful relations and co-operation between British Columbia and Alaska on mining development and environmental protection.

A breach of this magnitude is unprecedented in British Columbia in over 160 years of mining. Major breaches of tailings storage facilities have happened all over the world, including in many U.S. states. Your suggestion, based on the Mount Polley failure, that in B.C. we are somehow less responsible in developing our mining industry than you are in Alaska, or that we’re charging forward without due care for environmental protection is based on a misrepresentation of the facts. Let me set the record straight on a few things.

The independent panel traced the cause of the failure at Mount Polley to the original design of the tailings storage facility, and concluded that government inspectors could not have detected the issue.

The panel also noted that it considered the technical qualifications of British Columbia government inspectors as among the best that it has encountered among agencies with similar duties.