On Monday, a tailings dam failure caused over five million cubic meters of wastewater to spill from Imperial Metals' Mount Polley copper and gold mine, flowing into the headwaters of the Fraser River watershed, and causing officials to enact a number of water use and drinking water bans.
The Mount Polley Mine in B.C. and the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska are both large, open pit, copper porphyry mines, with a modern tailings dam design, located at the headwaters of an important fishery.
“Our research shows that these tailings dam failures are far more common than the industry wants to admit,” said Bonnie Gestring of Earthworks northwest office.
“In the US more than a quarter of the currently operating copper porphyry mines have experienced partial or total tailings pond failures.”
She continued: “That’s why the EPA’s plan to restrict mine waste in the Bristol Bay watershed is so critical to the future of our nation’s most valuable wild salmon fishery.”
A 2012 peer-reviewed report by Earthworks shows that full or partial tailings dam failures have occurred at 28 per cent of the currently operating copper porphyry mines in the United States – representing 89 per cent of US copper production.
The Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) has repeatedly claimed that mining and fish can coexist, and points to the Fraser River as a watershed as its example for this.
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