More than 50 environmental, First Nations and community organizations in Canada and the United States are asking the Canadian government to take action to prevent mine waste dams and impoundments from adversely affecting the environment.
The groups made their stance clear in a letter sent July 20 to energy and mines ministers from across Canada, who are holding their annual conference in Halifax.
They say they want the provincial and territorial governments to respond to lessons learned from the August 2014 Mount Polley mine disaster in British Columbia.
The group notes that the Independent Expert Review Panel on the Mount Polley failures determined that current Canadian and global standards for mine waste disposal are fundamentally flawed and that future failures at other mines are simply a matter of time.
The letter told the mine ministers “the panel does not accept the concept of a tolerable failure rate for tailings dams. To do so, no matter how small, would institutionalize failure. First Nations will not accept this, the public will not permit it, government will not allow it, and the mining industry will not survive it.”
The group urged mines ministers to work together to support and implement all the recommendations of the review panel to avoid any future similar catastrophic tailings failures in Canada.
They called for immediate measures to assess the safety of existing and proposed tailings sites and maintaining an inventory of sites and review results accessible to the public.
They also urged creation of independent tailings review boards, including International Joint Commission reviews for transboundary mines located on the Canada-U.S. border that presents a risk to either country’s waters. Fish harvesters engaged in commercial, sport and subsistence harvests in Southeast Alaska have been particularly concerned about this issue, given the number of potential mines seeking permits along transboundary waters.