Macdonald and Clovechok spar over Mount Polley findings

Whether or not the collapsed tailings pond dam at Mount Polley has become a matter of debate here in the Columbia Valley

Whether or not the collapsed tailings pond dam at Mount Polley could have been avoided has become a matter of debate here in the Columbia Valley.

In a written exchange, Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald and former BC Liberal candidate Doug Clovechok have accused each other of spreading misinformation for the benefit of their respective political parties.

“The BC Liberals said the failure was completely unpredictable. That is not true,” Macdonald stated in his bi-weekly MLA Report that was published in January 28th issue of The Valley Echo. “This government’s sloppiness made this failure completely predictable.”

In a response issued Saturday, February 7th, Clovechock argued that Macdonald’s claims are “completely untrue and are completely refuted by the conclusions found by an independent panel that investigated the incident.”

In a rebuttal, Macdonald quotes Vaughn Palmer of the Vancouver Sun, who read the panel’s report in its entirety: “Mount Polley was not a story of one flaw that went undetected for years with nothing to be done about it. Rather, it was characterized by a pattern of dubious behaviour, margins of safety that skirted the edge of the cliff, little thought of worst-case scenarios, all factors in a disaster waiting to happen.”

Roughly 150 pages of the panel’s findings have been withheld to prevent interference with ongoing investigations, according to the provincial government.

From what was publicly released of the report, the panelists found a number of contributing factors, but state that a flawed design of the tailings pond was a leading contribution, having been situated above a layer of earth weaker than previously thought. The panelists say the straw that broke the camel’s back was the construction of a steep downstream rockfill zone. The construction of the rockfill zone was on a slope with a grade steep enough to cause the breach, according to a press release.

The press release goes on to suggest that current inspection practices were not able to adequately detect the hazard.

“Inspections of the tailings storage facility would not have prevented failure. Regulatory staff are well qualified to perform their responsibilities and they performed as expected.”

“Basically the weight of the dam was too much for the weak materials in the foundation to bear,” said U.S. consulting engineer Steven Vick, one of the three experts.

The report concludes that the concrete-like glacial till material in the base of the dam wasn’t understood in enough detail when the dam was designed and built in 1997. Later raising of the dam to hold more water and tailings weakened the base layer and led to the failure.

Vick said the additions to the dam were built with a steeper slope than the original dam, and plans to buttress the area were delayed until it was too late.

Seven recommendations were made through the report, which Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett said the province will fully implement.

Two more investigations of the mine failure are pending. Bennett said the Chief Inspector of Mines is likely to release his report by this summer, and the Conservation Officer Service will also report when its investigation is complete.

Bennett said the government is willing to see the Mount Polley mine reopen, but the other investigations must be complete first. The parent company Imperial Metals has applied to use an existing pit to store tailings and resume operations without using the original tailings pond again.

~With files from Tom Fletcher

Just Posted

Invermere gets new CAO

Invermere found his new CAO after a long period of research.

Radium council discusses short term rentals

RHS council are elaborating the second draft plan for STR

Farmers’ Institute report highlights emerging local food scene

Beef cattle ranching remains mainstay of valley agriculture

Beautification process begins in Canal Flats downtown

Canal Flats wants to improve the esthetic of the town

Liberals vow wage-subsidy extension to 2021, revamp of EI system in throne speech

Canadian labour market was hammered by pandemic, when lockdowns in the spring led to a loss of 3 million jobs

‘It’s a boy’: Southern Resident killer whale calf born to J Pod is healthy, researchers say

J35 had previously done a ‘Tour of Grief,’ carrying her dead calf for 17 days

People ‘disgusted’ by COVID-19 election call, B.C. Liberal leader says

Andrew Wilkinson speaks to municipal leaders from Victoria

Incumbent MLA ‘disappointed’ premier has called snap election

Doug Clovechok will be seeking re-election on Oct. 24.

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Horgan blasts B.C. Greens for refusing youth overdose detention

Lack of support key to B.C. election call, NDP leader says

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

Grand jury indicts police officer in Breonna Taylor death

Officer Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment

Most Read