British Columbia

Mount Polley: First Nations urge B.C. not to cherry-pick from mine report advice

First Nations leaders in B.C. are urging the provincial government to implement all the recommendations made in a review of the devastating Mount Polley tailings dam collapse.

More than 100 other tailings ponds need inspection, says Grand Chief Stewart Phillip

Grand Chief Ed John spotted this great blue heron overlooking mine waste from the massive Mount Polley mine disaster at Hazeltine Creek, B.C. in August 2014. (Ed John/First Nations Summit)

First Nations leaders in B.C. are urging the provincial government to implement all the recommendations made in a review of the devastating Mount Polley tailings dam collapse.

"We urge the province of British Columbia not to cherry-pick the recommendations. This is not a smorgasbord," said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

Phillip said there is a massive need for reform in the mining industry, and the independent panel's report offers a framework for those changes.

"There's no time for an ongoing study or review of the recommendations. It's incumbent upon the province of British Columbia and the company to begin to act immediately."

Bev Sellars, chief of the Xat'sull First Nation, said business as usual cannot continue in B.C. mining after the Mount Polley spill. (CBC)

The provincial government appointed an independent review panel after the dam burst last August at the Imperial Metals Corp. mine, sending 25 million cubic metres of contaminated water and mining waste into pristine fish habitat.

In its report released last week, the three-person panel blamed the failure of the tailings pond on poor design, which didn't take into account underlying instability of the earth below.

The investigators also made several recommendations about how tailings dams are designed, monitored and regulated in B.C.

"We are very grateful for the recommendations from the panel ... those recommendations have to be taken seriously," said Bev Sellars, chief of the Xat'sull First Nation.

Phillip said there are 123 other tailings storage facilities throughout B.C. that should be "carefully examined" to avoid further breaches.

Sellars also wants to see more First Nations involvement in the mining industry.

"It has to change. The status quo cannot carry on."

With files from Terry Donnelly and Canadian Press

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