The complete failure of the tailings dam at Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley copper-gold mine in central BC’s Cariboo region on Aug. 4 is the most depressing thing to have happened in Canadian mining since the Bre-X Minerals debacle in 1997. It’s the worst tailings dam failure tied to a Canadian company since the Los Frailes disaster in Spain in 1998 (5 million cubic metres spilled) and the Omai spill in Guyana in 1995 (2.3 million cubic metres spilled). It’s about as big a tailings dam failure as you can get: some 15 million cubic metres of tailings muck has so far flowed out of the mine’s tailings impoundment area through a gaping hole in an obliterated eastern portion of a huge dam wall.
To see the jaw-dropping scale of the devastation, watch the full video of a helicopter survey of the affected area at http://youtu.be/M1YgX2jXnpA, posted by the Cariboo Regional District authority. The video takes 37 minutes, because the affected area is so huge: the massive tailings facility itself, Polley Lake immediately to the east and the deeply messed-up Hazeltine Creek, which empties into the western reaches of the formerly pristine Quesnel Lake, where there are critical salmon spawning grounds.
Read the complete editorial at NorthernMiner.com/news/editorial-mount-polley