Canada’s Mines Ministers ‘Open’ to Taking Action to Prevent Future Mine Waste Disasters, But Concrete Commitments Lacking

(Halifax) As Canada’s annual Energy & Mines Ministers Conference winds up in Halifax, MiningWatch Canada is pleased that Canada’s Mines Ministers have discussed mine waste management issues following last year’s massive Mount Polley spill in British Columbia. But the mining watch dog is also concerned that the meeting will not result with any concrete commitments in in order to prevent future mine waste disasters.

“Talks aren’t enough. Mines Ministers from all provinces & territories need to take concrete steps in order to prevent future mine waste disasters in this country,” says Ugo Lapointe, Canada Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, in Halifax today.

In his closing remarks, British Columbia Minister Bennett said that all Canada’s Mines Ministers had ‘a good talk’ on Mount Polley’s spill and its implications. A closed-door session was held this morning on this topic. But Lapointe explains it’s impossible to know exactly what was said: “The media and the public could not attend this closed-door session. We asked Minister Bennett and his counterparts to be more specific about the outcomes of this meeting. We haven’t had a clear answer yet.”

Yesterday, a coalition representing thousands of Canadians and concerned organizations sent a letter to all Canada’s Mines Ministers urging them to take immediate action to assess and prevent the threat posed by hundreds of mine waste dams and impoundments in all provinces and territories.

The groups are pressuring the ministers to respond to the lessons learned from the August 2014 Mount Polley mine disaster in British Columbia – the biggest mining waste spill in Canadian history. They are urging provincial and territorial governments to work together to support and implement all of the Mount Polley Independent Expert Review Panel’s recommendations (see all recommendations in the letter).

The Expert Panel firmly rejected any notion “that business as usual can continue,” and urged the industry and all regulators to change the way mining waste facilities are designed, operated, and regulated in order to avoid any future failures: “The Panel does not accept the concept of a tolerable failure rate for tailings dams. To do so, no matter how small, would institutionalize failure. First Nations will not accept this, the public will not permit it, government will not allow it, and the mining industry will not survive it.”

The groups also recommend additional scrutiny for mines upstream of the Canada-U.S. border that could present a risk to either country’s waters.

For further information and a complete list of the signatories, see the letter.

For information:

  • Ugo Lapointe, MiningWatch Canada (English/Français): (514) 708-0134