Allow for time to tell
The article “Design flaws” in the March/April 2015 edition
of CIM Magazine reported on the findings of the Mount Polley
review panel. The independent panel was expressly directed
to avoid assigning liability of the breach. We are concerned
that some of the intonations in the article may lead your readers
to conclude that guilt has already been assigned and thus
thought it prudent to stress that any conclusions to this effect
are premature while the rigorous investigations being carried
out by the Government of British Columbia’s Inspector of
Mines and Ministry of Environment Conservation Officer
Service are ongoing. These investigations are expected to produce
As the former Engineer of Record, Knight Piésold Ltd.
assisted Mount Polley Mining Corporation for more than
two decades with the successful design and operation of
their tailings storage facility. Knight Piésold adopted a conservative
design philosophy wherein flat embankment
slopes and/or buttresses were incorporated to ensure
appropriate factors of safety for each stage of development.
We are confident that the tailings dam was constructed
with stable slopes and the impoundment was functioning
properly with extensive drained tailings beaches and a relatively
small volume of ponded water when we departed
from the Mount Polley project in 2010. Furthermore, at the
time of this extremely unfortunate incident, we provided a
public statement on Aug. 8, 2014 to provide clarity and
transparency about our role as the former Engineer of
Record. Significant design changes were made subsequent
to our involvement, such that the tailings storage facility
can no longer be considered a Knight Piésold design.
We cooperated fully with the Independent Review Panel
and continue to support the ongoing investigations of the
Inspector of Mines and the Conservation Officer Service. We
remain confident that a detailed sequencing of events that led
to the unfortunate occurrence of Aug. 4, 2014 will be made
public in due course. As a concerned member of the mining
community, it is of paramount importance to us that a full
understanding of the causality of this breach is developed.
This will support ongoing work with mining companies, regulatory
bodies, First Nations and communities to implement
robust and feasible preventative measures throughout all the
jurisdictions in which we work.
Greg Smyth, Knight Piésold Ltd.