Chapter 4 – British Columbia Engineering Failures

2014 – Mt. Polley Tailings Pond Collpase

The Mount Polley mine disaster is an environmental disaster in the Cariboo region of central British ColumbiaCanada, that began 4 August 2014 with a breach of the Imperial Metals-owned Mount Polley copper and gold mine tailings pond, releasing its water and slurry with years worth of mining waste into Polley Lake. The spill flooded Polley Lake, its outflow Hazeltine Creek, and continued into nearby Quesnel Lake and Cariboo River. By 8 August the four-square-kilometre (1.5 sq mi) sized tailings pond had been emptied of the majority of supernatant (process water) that sits atop the settled solids (mining waste, or ‘tailings’). Water tests showed elevated levels of selenium, arsenic and other metals similar to historical tests before the disaster. The cause of the dam break has been investigated with a final report published 31 January 2015. Imperial Metals had a history of operating the pond beyond capacity since at least 2011.


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To the extent possible under law, Jennifer Kirkey has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to Engineering and Technology in Society - Canada, except where otherwise noted.

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