B.C. completes implementation of revised mining code for tailings.

Bill Bennett - B.C., Minister of Energy and Mines
Bill Bennett - B.C., Minister of Energy and Mines

New changes to the mining code put British Columbia at the forefront of global standards for the safety of tailings storage facilities (TSFs) at mines operating in B.C., Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett just announced.

“With these updates to the mining code, along with the new site characterization guidelines from the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC, British Columbians can have confidence that our standards for tailings storage facilities are as good as exists anywhere in the world,” Bennett said. “The Mt. Polley disaster was unprecedented for British Columbia, but it did happen. We have now taken steps to ensure that such a disaster can never happen again in British Columbia.”

The implementation of the seven recommendations from the Independent Expert Engineering Panel’s investigation into the Aug. 4, 2014, tailings pond breach at the Mount Polley Mine was ordered by Bennett in June 2015 and is now complete. The panel concluded that the dam failed because the strength and location of a layer of clay underneath the dam was not taken into account in its original design and made seven recommendations to prevent such incidents in the future.

In keeping with the independent expert panel’s recommendations, the mining code now includes design standards for TSFs that are tailored to the particular conditions encountered in British Columbia and emphasize protecting the public and workers. These include TSF design requirements for the steepness of downstream slopes, the minimum static factor of safety and new seismic and flood design criteria.

The expert panel delivered a report in January 2015 on its investigation into the cause of the failure of the tailings storage facility at the Mt. Polley Mine. The report also included the release of 35,000 pages of documentation related to the panel’s investigation.

Updates to the TSF portion of the mining code include new design and operations criteria for TSFs, requiring water balance and water management plans for TSFs and requiring mines with TSFs to establish Independent Tailings Review Boards.

“The changes to the B.C. mining code are far-reaching and responsive to the recommendations of the panel. I would like to commend the minister, the chief inspector of mines and the code review committee for completing such a thorough review in order to address the panel's recommendations," said Dirk van Zyl, professor and chair of mining and the environment, University of British Columbia mining program and former member of the Independent Expert Engineering Panel. “These changes put B.C. in a leadership position and clearly set the groundwork for a more comprehensive approach to consistent tailings management in the province. It is another step towards the overall goal of moving to zero TSF failures. Minister Bennett's acceptance of all of the panel and other recommendations, and his insistence to complete their implementation, is an important commitment to everyone in B.C.”

Through these revisions to the Mining Code, government has addressed 20 of the 26 recommendations from the independent expert panel and the chief inspector of mines’ reports. The 17 recommendations from the Office of the Auditor General’s report have also been accepted by government and are expected to be addressed by the end of 2017.

The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (APEGBC) has completed the new professional practice guidelines for site characterization for tailings dams in British Columbia. The new guidelines directly respond to the independent expert panel’s recommendation that APEGBC develop guidelines that would lead to improved site characterization for tailings dams with respect to the geological, geomorphological, hydrogeological and seismotectonic characteristics.

“British Columbians rightfully expect safety and professionalism in every aspect of how resource development projects are carried out, said Ann English, chief executive officer and registrar of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC. “The updates to the Mining Code and the development of site characterization guidelines, in line with the recommendations of the independent expert panel and chief inspector of mines, support high standards of practice by B.C. engineers and geoscientists and our responsibility to public protection.”

In keeping with the independent expert panel’s recommendations, the mining code now includes design standards for TSFs that are tailored to the particular conditions encountered in British Columbia and emphasize protecting the public and workers. These include TSF design requirements for the steepness of downstream slopes, the minimum static factor of safety and new seismic and flood design criteria.

The expert panel delivered a report in January 2015 on its investigation into the cause of the failure of the tailings storage facility at the Mt. Polley Mine. The report also included the release of 35,000 pages of documentation related to the panel’s investigation.

Updates to the TSF portion of the mining code include new design and operations criteria for TSFs, requiring water balance and water management plans for TSFs and requiring mines with TSFs to establish Independent Tailings Review Boards.

“The changes to the B.C. mining code are far-reaching and responsive to the recommendations of the panel. I would like to commend the minister, the chief inspector of mines and the code review committee for completing such a thorough review in order to address the panel's recommendations," said Dirk van Zyl, professor and chair of mining and the environment, University of British Columbia mining program and former member of the Independent Expert Engineering Panel. “These changes put B.C. in a leadership position and clearly set the groundwork for a more comprehensive approach to consistent tailings management in the province. It is another step towards the overall goal of moving to zero TSF failures. Minister Bennett's acceptance of all of the panel and other recommendations, and his insistence to complete their implementation, is an important commitment to everyone in B.C.”

Through these revisions to the Mining Code, government has addressed 20 of the 26 recommendations from the independent expert panel and the chief inspector of mines’ reports. The 17 recommendations from the Office of the Auditor General’s report have also been accepted by government and are expected to be addressed by the end of 2017.

The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC (APEGBC) has completed the new professional practice guidelines for site characterization for tailings dams in British Columbia. The new guidelines directly respond to the independent expert panel’s recommendation that APEGBC develop guidelines that would lead to improved site characterization for tailings dams with respect to the geological, geomorphological, hydrogeological and seismotectonic characteristics.

“British Columbians rightfully expect safety and professionalism in every aspect of how resource development projects are carried out, said Ann English, chief executive officer and registrar of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC. “The updates to the Mining Code and the development of site characterization guidelines, in line with the recommendations of the independent expert panel and chief inspector of mines, support high standards of practice by B.C. engineers and geoscientists and our responsibility to public protection.”

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