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October 28, 2017 6:02 am

Steelworkers Seek Answers in Mt Polley Spill

Saturday, January 31, 2015 @ 4:11 AM

Prince, George, B.C. – The union representing workers at the Mt. Polley mine says the employees could have provided valuable input into the search for answers about why last summer’s tailings pond breach occurred.

A government-appointed engineering panel concluded the breach last August 4th was caused by a failure in the dam’s foundation, resulting from a design which failed to account for the presence of glacial lake deposit in the foundation. As well the panel found the wall of the dam was too steep and that the load in the dam was too much for the foundation to support. The breach sent 24 million cubic metres of mine silt and water into creeks, rivers and lakes in the area near Likely.

The head of the union representing over 300 workers at the mine says while he does not question the opinion of the experts who put the report on the disaster together, he feels “it depends what they were asked to investigate.”  As well, United Steelworkers District 3 Director Stephen Hunt questions the government’s refusal to listen to what the people who work in the mine have to say about the lead-up to the breach.

Hunt says “we asked the Minister of Mines to participate on the advisory group, at least so we could put some questions to them on how what, when and why happened. The minister rejected our participation outright, so to us it creates more questions than it answers. Why did it fail, why did the design failure happen? It seems that the original dam was approved and then they continued to add to it and it was obviously too narrow in some places. And we know as well that leading up to the disaster that there was a sharp decrease in inspections. If the ministry and the government were responsible for monitoring this, maybe had they been doing their job they would have caught it before it failed. I don’t think they’re off the hook on this.”

Director Hunt says “first off, tailings dams are not supposed to fail. And when the Minister of Mines told me that it was just sand and water, I was astounded with that comment and I saw that several times and I actually told him to stop saying it. It’s not just sand and water; toxic waste from a mine is never, ever supposed to see the light of day. If it was just sand and water, as he said, then why do we build tailings ponds? Why don’t was just dump the stuff into rivers and lakes and streams, and onto the land, all the time? It can have terrible effects on people downstream and we’re supposed to guard against that and the Mines Act is very explicit in that. Not only do you protect the workers but you also protect people that are downstream from mining operations.”

“And again to us, when the workers’ representative offers to help and tries to bring to light some of the contributing factors, or something that may have contributed to it, I think when you do an inquiry like this there’s an onus to listen. If we raised something like why wasn’t the measuring equipment on the dams working, why was there a crack on the top of the dam and it was filled in with a grader? Those questions should have been answered. At least we could have put them to somebody and they’d give us an answer and close it down.”

Hunt says “we know that the company requested a number of times to release water from the dam, and that request was denied by the Ministry of Environment. In the (panel) report it says that the water didn’t do anything to the structure of the dam, but it caused more environmental damage because of the outflow. Again, why was there too much water in the dam? Why was it denied if they wanted to release then why did they not come up with a plan? Again questions like that were not answered and won’t be answered, and for the life of me I don’t know why the workers were excluded from any type of fulsome ability to question what may have happened.”

Coincidentally, in November 2014, the three-member expert panel called for public submissions into the dam collapse, submissions to be accepted until December 7th of last year. Panel chair Norbert Morgenstern was quoted by journalist Gordon Hoekstra in the Vancouver Sun as saying “There are a lot of opinions flying around in the public domain, perhaps even in the private domain, and we thought to be properly diligent that we should invite anyone who cares to, to formalize those views and get us to think about them. It’s part of our desire to leave no stone unturned.”

Hunt says the Steelworkers Union would like to see some significant changes to the Mines Ministry. “When you see the inspection rate in the ministry drop like a stone, we think that contributed somewhat to this. The other problem we have is that the Ministry of Mines is responsible for the promotion of mining in British Columbia, which we’re in support of. We want to see mines opened, we want to see them operating safely and environmentally soundly.”

“So our suggestion is to break up the Ministry of Mines with respect to safety and health and environment. Transfer the safety and health to the Workers Compensation Board (WorksafeBC). It’s one of the only occupations in British Columbia that is not covered by the board. And the environment, transfer it to the Ministry of Environment, and let’s make sure that there’s oversight so that the public is protected.”

Meantime, Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett says the Liberal government will act immediately on key recommendations of the government-appointed panel that investigated the Mount Polley tailings pond failure and will launch a code review to consider the other recommendations.


“and then they continued to add to it and it was obviously too narrow in some places.”
So now a union boss is a geotechnical expert? He can’t complain about rhetoric and then spew his own versions at the same time.

“The union representing workers at the Mt. Polley mine says the employees could have provided valuable input into the search for answers about why last summer’s tailings pond breach occurred.”


But they didn’t because, “It’s not my job.” Plain and simple.

When you let the fox guard the chicken house shit happens “plain and simple”.

Yeah I could imagine the sense of urgency..

“But they didn’t because, “It’s not my job.” Plain and simple.” What a crock of you know what!

How about, they weren’t allowed to by our govt?

Gotta make sure “the man” is protected!

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