In the days since the horrific failure of the tailings pond dam at the Mount Polley Mine, one thing is clear to me, and I suspect many would agree.
As a province we cannot in good faith, trust industry or our own government to ensure the safety of the public, or the environment.
The government states it warned the mine for years.
The company claimed complete surprise over the situation.
To say the Mount Polley tailings pond breach is a failure of duty and responsibility on many levels, is an understatement. Inspections and warnings without the ability to enforce are meaningless and while the B.C. Liberals fully wear this one from beginning to end, according to the Vancouver Observer, the issues of understaffing and deregulation go back as far as the late '90s.
But while many lay full blame at the government, the corporate responsibility for this must not be overlooked. Explosive allegations from a former mine manager leave no doubt as to the need for an immediate and complete policy shift that gives solid teeth to legislation governing mines and punitive actions such as a full production stop if full safety and engineering standards aren't met.
No one knows for certain what the long-term impact of this disaster is going to be. Other tailings breaches around the world have resulted in massive fish loss, and contaminated land and government buyouts along impacted waterways.
The toxic ingredients of the sludge now covering forest floors, creek banks and the bottoms of lakes and rivers will continue to leech every time it rains, every time snow melts. Some researchers claim the impact will be permanent. And the lives of many in the areas down from the breach are ruined.
Properly managed and with thorough environmental and health and safety oversight in place, mining can be and is a successful revenue generator for our province.
However, without complete, transparent inspections, reports, and provincial oversight and enforcement, residents near all mines should be asking provincial authorities today for assurances this cannot, and will not happen again. Environmental and public safety when it comes to industry standards cannot be compromised. Anything less than immediate inspections of other tailings ponds like Mount Polley's is lip service.
Ironically, in the midst of the shock the president of Imperial Metals, Brian Kynoch, stated several times that the water is "relatively benign" and he would drink it -- once the solids had settled.
Frankly, I don't care if the president would drink a glass of that water. I care if he would let his family drink that water. Wash in it. Use it to water livestock, or his garden. His statements did nothing but give fodder for a new meme: Almost Drinkable.
Almost being the key word. Care for a glass Premier Clark?
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