The purpose of Tailings Review Boards (TRBs) are to solicit independent review and scrutiny of the technical aspects related to the design, construction, operation and closure planning of tailings facilities. After the Mt. Polley tailings dam breach, an Independant review of the Mt. Polley Tailings Dam Breach was undertaken.
The August 2014 breach of the Mount Polley copper and gold mine tailings storage facility (TSF) in B.C. resulted in the release of tailings and water into Polley Lake and its surrounding water systems. The significance to the entire mining industry was obvious. A subsequent investigation by an independent review panel found that the breach was caused by a zone of weakness in the foundations of the perimeter dam (which had not been properly accounted for during its original design).
The event at Mount Polley raised public concerns about the integrity of TSFs in B.C. and in the mining sector more broadly. In August 2014, approximately two weeks following the event, B.C.’s Minister of Energy and Mines ordered all TSFs in the province to have a Dam Safety Inspection (DSI) with verified third-party approval of the inspection findings.
In January 2015, the Mount Polley Independent Expert Engineering Investigation and Review Panel (the Panel) delivered its final report. The report included a number of recommendations regarding items such as the use of best available technology and best available practices, governance, and increased use of tailings review boards.
Following release of the report, the government of B.C. augmented their August 2014 order to include:
- Ordering all operating mines to identify whether they had foundation materials similar to those found at Mount Polley – and, if so, to confirm (1) whether sufficient testing had been carried out to determine the strength of these foundation materials, and (2) whether their TSFs were designed to address the nature of these foundation materials
- Requiring all operating mines to establish independent TSF review boards. (How independent can a board be when the bill is paid by the mine?)
- Initiating a review of the Mining Code on how best to implement recommendations regarding best available practices and best available technology.
The use of Tailings Review Boards are not mandated in this province. It is not completely clear in the above notice what body initiated the trios trip to Nova Scotia. Several questions relating to the tailings management facility have been asked by various community members and to date have remain unanswered.
I am surmising that given the audacity of Atlantic Gold to locate an open tailings facility in perpetuity upgrade of the St. Mary’s River; despite the millions of dollars that have been spent on the conservation, preservation and recreational importance of the river; that they have taken upon themselves to validate their desk top design and attempt to alleviate the fears of the opposition. This will bode well in the eyes of the Environmental Review Process in terms of dealing with the albatross. I urge all to attend that can as we will be judged on the turnout numbers. Once again I am dismayed that these meetings are held during working hours and not an evening session. Should you not be able to make it given work commitments please send an e-mail notification to the Community Liaison person noting this and keep a record.
Of significant note is the fact that this degree of consultation for the tailings pond design and tailings management facility has not taken place for the Moose River (Touquoy), Fifteen Mile Gold Stream, nor the Beaver Dam proposed mines. I credit the work of the St. Mary’s River Association, Eastern Shore Forestry Watch, Ecology Action Centre on their efforts to “pop the String of Pearls”. I hope adjacent organizations can attend this session.
Independent Tailings Reveiw Board Members:
Karlis Jansons is Principal Owner and Tailings Engineer at GeoMin Initiatives Inc. based out of Toronto.
Peter Lighthall is now an independent consultant specializing in review of mine tailings impoundments, mine waste rock and water management systems. 45 years of experience in over 25 countries worldwide. Mr. Lighthall is based out of British Columbia.
Alan Martin bio link, based out of British Columbia.