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October 28, 2017 3:35 am

Provincial Ministries Did Not Fail Public in Duty to Warn Public About Mt. Polley Danger

Thursday, July 2, 2015 @ 10:25 AM

Victoria, B.C.-  Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham  has  determined  the Ministry of  Energy and Mines and the Ministry of the Environment did not fail in their duty to warn the public about the dangers  posed by the  Mount Polley tailings pond prior to its breach  last August.

In her report,  she says   her investigation did not find any documents  that would indicate  either Ministry had any information  describing a risk of significant harm to the environment, health or public safety, including any risk posed by design inadequacies related to the foundation of the dam which was determined to  be the  root cause of the breach.

However, the investigation did reveal two documented events that could have triggered a disclosure requirement – a tension crack described in
a 2010 annual inspection report, and a “freeboard incident” where the water level in the tailings pond rose above permitted safety levels.  She  has determined that while the two events  did not  pose a risk of significant  harm to the  environment, health or public safety,  they  would have triggered  the disclosure requirements under  section 25 (1) (a) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

That Section reads:

25  (1) Whether or not a request for access is made, the head of a public body must, without delay, disclose to the public, to an affected group of people or to an applicant, information

(a) about a risk of significant harm to the environment or to the health or safety of the public or a group of people, or

(b) the disclosure of which is, for any other reason, clearly in the public interest.

The Commissioner found that while there was a public interest in information about the Mount Polley mine tailings pond breach after the event occurred, the existing interpretation of this section – that there be a temporal urgency in the disclosure – was not met, so the ministries were not compelled to disclose information about the tailings pond breach that was “clearly in the public interest”.

Commissioner Denham also analyzed the existing interpretation of the “clearly in the public interest” test.

“In a prior report on section 25, I expressed the view that public interest disclosures should not require urgent circumstances; such a requirement effectively undermines the purposes of the legislation. My investigation of the Mount Polley mine tailings pond breach presented the opportunity to examine this issue in depth.  With today’s report, I have concluded that urgent circumstances are no longer required to trigger proactive disclosure where there is a clear
public interest in disclosure of the information.”

In light of her  interpretation , the Commissioner recommends the Ministries of Energy and Environment “promptly and diligently” consider what information, if any, must be disclosed in the public interest specific to the Mount Polley mine tailings pond breach.


This report must surely be disappointing to the news media in general and to CBC in particular. Methinks these media ‘newsmakers’ were preparing for hanging the BC Government, now that they could no longer wail at the mine operators. And my, the NDP community must surely be absolutely disappointed with the report conclusions.
This is not to say I think the pond breach was a minor incident but was probably more of an act of omission rather than an act of aggression.

We know the BC Government deleted e-mails pertaining to the highway of tears…it has been well reported…
who is to say emails pertaining to this mines haven’t been deleted as well?

In simple understandable english any idiot could understand, “yes” both ministries dropped the ball. Using a rare commodity of logic, lets follow this through with a simple analogy. If you are pouring water into a glass, at some point in time you need to stop pouring, or you will spill the water due to the over full glass….

Why the heck couldn’t some genius at either ministry realize the the tailings pond is no longer a “pond” but a man made lake. Seriously allowing the mine to operate to the point of stupidity** (**that being the tailings lake) was shier negligence on the governments part. That facility has been allowed to run beyond a safe manageable level for years.

This whole report is nothing more than butt coverage, and nothing more than that. The whole “oh we didn’t see anything” routeen from this government when things go horribly south is simply amazing…

It all comes down to interpretation. Such is the case with any worded document/legislation/law or contract. The side being at fault or accountable will interpret language or phrases to their advantage. This is why lawyers are needed for everything, to take words and twist them, alter meaning (or intent of phrases) until things work out in one sides favor.
The simple fact that they knew of prior issues and chose not to act has no bearing on the situation anymore because it does not fit into their interpretation of the legislation. Right or Wrong is all about how they interpret it.

Crissy needs a minister of the blatantly obvious . I suggest she look well outside of the lib party .

Speaking of the blatantly obvious . If one has a country covered in forests and you’ve got hundreds of forest fires just for starters . Would you rather have an airforce with water bombers or would you rather have an airforce killing people abroad ?

Good point bcracer; in deleting emails that the official opposition formally requested through the Access to Information Act, this government has set a precedent where any information, deemed to be not in the best interest of the government, could be deleted by that government. Why even have an Access to Information Act?

On another point; “In her report, she says her investigation “did not find” any documents that would indicate either Ministry had any information describing a risk of significant harm to the environment, health or public safety, including any risk posed by design inadequacies related to the foundation of the dam which was determined to be the root cause of the breach.”

Notice how I sub-quoted “did not find”; “A four-year-old report on Mount Polley’s tailings pond, which collapsed this summer, notes that inspectors found a tension crack in the earthen dam, and NDP leader John Horgan says he wants to know why the report was HIDDEN away. Horgan said Friday that the document, “collecting dust” on a library shelf in Williams Lake, noted a 10- to 15-metre long tension crack in the dam.”

So why was this “important” 4 year old report, noting a 10 to 15 metre long tension crack in the dam, only found collecting dust in the Williams Lake public library? Surely both the Mount Polley Mine operations office and the relevant Provincial Government ministry would have a copy of that report… yet none was found. Bizarre stuff… so, should we not be surprised that Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham did not find any documents concerning the Government’s duty to warn the public about the dangers posed by the Mount Polley tailings pond prior to its breach last August?

Perhaps Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham should search the Williams Lake public library, to make sure other “important documents” are not being stored there, that are curiously missing from government and mining company files and records. This government, and mining company, cannot even maintain and keep important mine safety inspection reports, so why should we trust them?

www. cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/mount-polley-dam-tension-crack-detected-4-years-ago-says-ndp-leader-john-horgan-1.2779355

Was the tension crack anrwhere near the failure and is there mention of remediation. The foundation failure was a surprise and a miss by the contractor who researched the damsite in its design phase.

Time to cut the BS. The glass of water was too full. Most likely they thought it was snowing in Victoria but it was only Christie Clark shredding paper.

No matter which side (of what argument) you may sit upon, someone allowed the pond to exceed safety limits. Couple this with a report which was never aired to the public (nor the residents in the affected areas) in regard to a stress fracture somewhere along the dam, yet still the govt and the company continued on business as usual.
It became obvious within the first 24 hrs after the breach last year, that nobody fully knew what lay inside the dam. Comprehensive testing of contents and levels should have been routinely tested/recorded/made available to the public
. We are not permitted anywhere in the province (w.h.i.m.s.) under provincial workplace regulations, to openly store any possible harardous substance without having properly equiped/properly labelled or openly advertised
, containment and written/available procedures and content information.
Point is that nobody is owning up. Everyone remains in denial, but yet 29 million cubic meters of unknows went through 2 lakes and is foing to be a threat for more than a few lifetimes.

Please excuse my poor spelling and run on sentences there..

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