The provincial government says it’s making progress toward ensuring a disaster like the Mt. Polley tailings pond breach never happens in BC again.

The Ministry of Energy and Mines announced changes to the Mining Code, based on seven recommendations made by an expert panel in the wake of the Mount Polley tailings pond breach.

Minister of Mines Bill Bennett says the new standards put BC at the top of the heap for safety when it comes to tailings storage facilities (TSF).

“These changes ensure that the mining code now includes design standards for TSFs that are tailored to the particular conditions that are encountered in BC. The changes for TSFs and dam safety emphasize the protection of the public and the environment.”

Along with standardized designs, the recommendations require facilities with TSFs produce water balance and management plans and take steps to increase accountability and transparency.

“We will now require all existing mines in BC with TSFs to establish an independent review board by December 31, 2016,” says Chief Inspector of Mines Al Hoffman. “Each mine will be required to submit an annual report that includes an overview of its independent tailings review board’s activities and these will all be posted online.”

The Ministry has now addressed 20 of 26 recommendations made by the Independent Expert Engineering Panel in January of last year. Bennett says they intend to continue addressing the remaining recommendations.

“We’re not done. Overall, we still have those 6 recommendations from the Chief Inspector of Mines report to implement and we have some of the recommendations from the Auditor General that we’ll need to do some more work on as well. The health and safety portion of the code review is going to be ongoing and it will continue through this year. We have a target for all the revisions to the code dealing with health and safety to be done and enforced by 2017.”

In May, the Auditor General released a scathing report on the Mt. Polley dam breach, laying the blame mostly with the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

Mining Minister Bill Bennett says the updates will have a real impact.

“I think what we have done here and what we will do in the next few months will prevent a major accident from happening with a TSF here in British Columbia. I’m absolutely convinced of that.”

You can view a complete list of the combined 43 recommendation from the independent expert panel, the chief inspector of mines and the Office of the Auditor General here.