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Mount Polley disaster prompts new tailings ponds regulations

Mount Polley disaster prompts new tailings ponds regulations

An aerial view of the Mount Polley mine tailings pond shows the area where the dam wall gave way early on the morning of August 4. (Image from archives)

Miners planning to set up shop in Canada’s British Columbia will now have to consider alternatives to wet tailings ponds, according to new provincial environmental regulations prompted by last year’s failure of Imperial Metals’ (TSX:III) Mount Polley tailings pond failure.

The set of fresh rules, developed in collaboration between the ministries of environment and mines, order mining companies to consider the possibility of a tailings disaster and evaluate the environmental, health, social and economic impacts of an accident.

The new requirements apply to all mining companies with applications under environmental assessment and are an interim measure while the Ministry of Mines completes a review of current mining regulations.

Mount Polley open pit copper and gold mine, located in central B.C., gave way on August 4, sending the equivalent of 2,000 Olympic swimming pools of potentially toxic mining waste into Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake.

Earlier this year Imperial Metals released a summary of its testing program on affected waters and sediments since the breach, concluding it was impossible to find toxicity that could be attributed to metals concentrations.