Canadian Dam Association comments on the Mount Polley Independent Expert Panel Report


(Toronto, Jan. 31, 2015) The Canadian Dam Association (CDA) welcomes the report of the independent expert engineering investigation and review panel into the failure of the tailings storage facility at the Mount Polley Mine in British Columbia on Aug. 4, 2014, and supports the BC government’s response. 

“The Panel provides some much-needed insight on the cause of the incident at the Mount Polley mine,” CDA President Gilles Bourgeois says. “The determination that the dam’s design did not properly take into account the characteristics of some of the soil underlying a side embankment is valuable information for the dam industry.”

CDA’s submission to the Panel made five recommendations for the BC government, suggesting it seek out new ways to support the development of guidance documents and professional development for the dam safety industry, especially as it relates to mining dams. Two of the Panel’s seven recommendations specifically refer to improvement in best practices and dam safety guidelines. CDA’s submission to the Panel has been posted on the CDA website www.cda.ca, and the full Panel report is available at www.mountpolleyreviewpanel.ca/final-report.

“Proper technical guidance and education for dam owners, consultants and regulators is germane to preventing failures,” Mr. Bourgeois says. “While the industry associations such as CDA have done a good job leading the creation of this guidance, we welcome the participation of other stakeholders such as government in our efforts.”

CDA’s Dam Safety Guidelines and related technical bulletins have become primary references for dam owners, operators and regulators, including the 2014 Technical Bulletin: Application of Dam Safety Guidelines to Mining Dams to address technical aspects of mining dam safety. Further guidance on management and operation of tailing dams is available from the Mining Association of Canada.

Following the report’s release, BC Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett announced that the BC Government intends to do a code review with consideration to incorporating elements of the CDA Dam Safety Guidelines into new regulations. CDA looks forward to working with the BC government and other organizations.

The Mount Polley tailings dam failure illustrates the need for continual vigilance among mine owners, dam safety engineers, operators, and regulators. The Canadian Dam Association supports efforts to advance understanding and practices to improve safety at all dams.

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About CDA
The Canadian Dam Association is a non-governmental not-for-profit organization that brings together dam owners, consulting engineers, regulatory staff and others who share an interest in:
Encouraging responsible practices and management throughout the life cycle of dams
Improving, disseminating and exchanging information and knowledge about dams.

For more information, contact CDA Executive Director Don Butcher at executive.director@cda.ca or 416-255-7076.