On March 19, 2015, British Columbia's Environmental
Assessment Office ("EAO") announced the
EAO's response to the recommendations of the independent review
panel appointed to investigate the breach of the tailings storage
facility at the Mount Polley Mine on August 4, 2014. The review
panel's recommendations were delivered on January 30, 2015.
In response to the panel's recommendations, the EAO has
established additional information requirements for proposed mines
in British Columbia with tailings ponds. The EAO issued the new
information requirements in separate letters to proponents who are
currently undergoing environmental assessment in British Columbia
and whose proposed projects include tailings ponds. The new
information requirements set out in the EAO letters are identical,
suggesting that the EAO will make these information requirements
standard for all environmental assessment applications for mines
with tailings ponds in British Columbia.
Under the new information requirements, proponents will be
required to provide a description and an assessment of alternative
means for the proposed project with options for tailings management
that consider technology, siting and water-balance management. The
assessment must present and compare best practices and best
available options for managing tailings. Specifically, the
proponent must provide options for managing water balance to
enhance safety and reduce the risk of tailings dam failure during
all phases of the mine's life cycle.
The assessment must transparently evaluate the factors that
supported the selection of the most suitable option for tailings
management. Proponents are required to consider safety, technical
and financial concerns and the implications for environmental,
health, social, heritage and economic values in their evaluations
of tailings management options. Life cycle cost assumptions must
also be included in the analysis.
The new information requirements announced by the EAO signal
that proposed mining projects with tailings facilities in British
Columbia will be subject to additional regulatory scrutiny after
the Mount Polley incident; however, the impact of the new
requirements remains to be seen.
The EAO's news release is available
here. The EAO letters to proponents are available on its
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