Engineering company distances itself from Mount Polley mine disaster

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      The former engineer of the Mount Polley mine-tailings facility has declared that it warned B.C.'s chief inspector of mines, Al Hoffman, and the mine's owner in February 2011 about the storage facility.

      "The embankments and the overall tailings impoundment are getting large and it is extremely important that they be monitored, constructed and operated properly to prevent problems in the future," Knight Piésold Ltd. managing director Ken Brouwer and president Jeremy Haile wrote in a letter to Imperial Metals Corporation CEO Brian Kyonoch.

      Knight Piésold stated in an August 8 news release that it has "not had any responsibility or knowledge of any aspects" of what's taken place there since February 10, 2011.

      On that date, the Vancouver office of Knight Piésold told Imperial Metals Corporation that it would no longer be the engineer of record.

      "The original engineering done by Knight Piésold Ltd. accommodated a significantly lower water volume than the tailings storage facility reportedly held at the time of the breach," Knight Piésold stated. "Significant engineering and design changes were made subsequent to our involvement, such that the tailings storage facility can no longer be considered a Knight Piésold Ltd. design."

      The engineering company called the breach of the tailings facility "an extremely unfortunate incident and Knight Piésold Ltd. shares the concerns with respect to the effects to local communities, First Nations and the environment".

      Approximately 10 million cubic metres of water containing toxic waste from the mine flowed into Hazeltine Creek and Polley Lake on August 4.

      "A formal handover of design, construction and monitoring responsibilities was conducted on March 8, 2011 when AMEC Earth and Environmental was acknowledged as the new Engineer of Record for all future work at the Mount Polley tailings storage facility," Knight Piésold stated.

      The company added that it "is not familiar with, and therefore cannot comment on, the details of the incident, or on the design, construction, operations, water management practices or any other aspects of the Mount Polley tailings storage facility".



      T. Lebeaux

      Aug 9, 2014 at 8:30pm

      Water tests show water meets standards for Drinking water,
      Water Ban lifted for Likely and area......
      Toxic Tailings are apparently not toxic…
      grrrr……I hate when that happens...
      What else can we bitch about?

      Martin Dunphy

      Aug 9, 2014 at 10:31pm

      The water ban was lifted <em>upstream</em> from the breach, not downstream.
      Just sayin'.


      Aug 10, 2014 at 11:25am

      "BOMBSHELL" for Christy Clark, BC Liberals and Imperial Metals.

      Ted Campbell

      Aug 10, 2014 at 3:42pm

      Is it possible the engineering co. Knight Pie'sold realized THEIR engineering wasn't up to snuff & wanted to pass the responsibility along? If anyone can find a photo of the dam Alcan put in on the Nechako to create the lake that feeds the power station at Kemano it is made of rock in a "U" shape with the "U" facing toward the water. Thus when water rises & increases the pressure on the face of the dam it acts to strengthen it. The Mt. Polley reservoir is a rectangular dirt dike. Looks like lots of questionable engineering in that picture. My take is if an engineering firm signs on then realizes they made an error it might be difficult to sign off later.


      Aug 11, 2014 at 11:23am

      They still cannot get away from it, if investigation shows their intial design was problematic.


      Aug 11, 2014 at 6:14pm


      The reinforcing effect of a U shape would be true for a concrete dam, but not for an earthen/fill dam.

      Geoff Smith

      Aug 17, 2014 at 2:35am

      This spill is a huge breach of trust by Imperial Metals and the BC government. So you can see why BC communities are evicting mining companies from their legally owned lands. The people living in these communities simply want respect from government and corporations. And they get nothing but dishonesty, lies and deceit, and of course spills from tailing ponds. These heavy metals are not going to sink to the bottom of 'navigable' waterways and disappear. This is long-term systemic toxic pollution that will be extremely vulnerable to earthquakes and mudslides and other natural disasters. My concern goes beyond the salmon too all wildlife in the communities that rely on natural resources.