The recent dam break near Likely, B.C. and ensuing environmental disaster highlights the need for companies to match coverage to the exposure. Will Kramer, a senior risk consultant at Hub, takes a closer look at what lessons can be learned from the Mount Polley mining operations.
On August 4, a dam near Likely, B.C., broke, as dams occasionally will do. This particular dam was holding back a ‘tailing pond’ filled with millions of gallons of water and waste which represent the leftovers of Imperial Metals’ mining operations at the Mount Polley mine.
Although we do not yet know the ultimate impact of this release, the Mount Polley tailing pond reportedly contained significant quantities of lead, copper, mercury, and other heavy metals and potentially toxic substances.
When disasters happen in far-off places, away from cameras and reporters, it can be difficult to get a sense of the severity of the situation. Imagine that instead of occurring in the remote interior of British Columbia, this disaster had happened somewhere more recognizable to most Canadians: Parliament Hill, which covers 88,480 square metres.
The 14.5 million cubic metres of water and slurry released from the Mount Polley tailings pond would cover the entirety of Parliament Hill to a depth of more than 163 metres, completely submerging by far the famous Peace Tower. That is a lot of water and waste, all of which was meant to stay put indefinitely, and not flushed into the local waterways.
Luckily, it didn’t happen in Parliament Hill. (continued.)