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Mount Polley tailings breach is a major industry concern: MAC

STATEMENT AND BACKGROUNDER - On August 4, a tailings breach occurred at the Mount Polley mine in British Columbia, owned and operated by Imperial Metals. This incident is an unfortunate and significant issue that is being taken very seriously by the company, the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) and all stakeholders involved.

Imperial Metals has apologized to the public for the breach of its tailings pond. Imperial has recognized and publicly asserted its responsibility to remedy the situation, and is working to stop the problem, get to the root of why it happened, mitigate the effects and prevent future failures. The company is cooperating fully with communities, and local and provincial authorities. Fortunately, the incident did not result in injuries, and the tailings from the Mount Polley mine are non-acid generating, but the company does recognize there has been a significant environmental impact that will have to be addressed.  Preliminary water tests released on August 7 show that the water remains within drinking-quality guidelines and that impact to aquatic life and fish is not expected. Further testing is being undertaken by the provincial government.

“The mining industry in Canada operates on the basis of public confidence in sound public policy, effective regulation and responsible management practices by companies. The confidence of the public in what we do and how we do it is essential. Incidents such as this are very rare, but it is the goal of MAC members that they never occur, and we have been working hard for many years to achieve this goal. Clearly, we still have work to do,” stated Pierre Gratton, MAC’s President and CEO.

Imperial Metals has been a member of MAC for the past two years and is in the early stages of implementing the Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) initiative, a major component of which includes commitments to ensure the safe operation and management of tailings. In fact, one of the main drivers behind the development of TSM in the late 1990s was to prevent incidents such as this. Through MAC’s tailings guides, initially published in 1998 and considered the global standard for tailings management, and through TSM, the industry has made steady improvement in this area.

The last similar event occurred at a closed site in 1991 and did not have any off-site impact. Every day, there are more than 200 mines operating in Canada, and MAC members have invested great effort in building a track record of the safe management of tailings facilities over recent decades.  MAC and its members, through MAC's Tailings Working Group, comprising many of the best professionals in this field, will review this incident to assess what can be learned and implemented to further ensure these incidents do not occur.

For useful facts pertaining to the Mount Polley incident, and general information about tailings facilities and how they are managed and regulated in Canada, download the backgrounder below:

BACKGROUNDER - The Mount Polly Incident and Tailings Management


About MAC

The Mining Association of Canada is the national organization for the Canadian mining industry.  Its members account for most of Canada’s production of base and precious metals, uranium, diamonds, metallurgical coal, mined oil sands and industrial minerals and are actively engaged in mineral exploration, mining, smelting, refining and semi-fabrication. Please visit