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B.C. needs to act quickly to prevent future mine-tailings disasters

Loretta Williams, chairwoman of First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining and Calvin Sandborn, QC, legal director of the Environmental Law Centre at the University of Victoria call on Premier John Horgan to act now to protect the workers and communities below tailings dams.

Photo Credit: Jonathan Hayward / The Canadian Press.

About five years ago, both B.C. and Brazil got dramatic warnings of the danger that tailings dams pose. In 2014, the Mount Polley mine dam collapsed, creating one of Canada’s most epic environmental disasters. Only 15 months later, a tailings dam in Mariana, Brazil, collapsed, wiping out a neighbourhood, killing 19 and poisoning a vast watershed. Fish literally leaped out of the river to flap on the banks, trying to escape lethal effluent.

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Catastrophic spill from mining dam threatens thousands of lives

“Vale’s Brumadinho mining waste dam failure is all the more tragic because the mining industry knows how to prevent them, yet failed to act.” — Payal Sampat, Earthworks.

Photo Credit: BBC.

The Independent Catholic News reports that:  Hundreds of people are missing, 37 people have been confirmed dead and more than 24,000 people have been evacuated from the Brazilian town hit by a deadly mudslide unleashed by a ruptured mining dam, as rains raised fears a second dam could collapse. . .

Payal Sampat, the Mining Director of our US counterpart organisation, Earthworks, said: “Vale’s Brumadinho mining waste dam failure is all the more tragic because the mining industry knows how to prevent them, yet failed to act. 200 people are missing and some presumed dead because Vale and the rest of global mining industry haven’t adopted the Mount Polley Independent Expert Panel’s recommendations made in response to a similar catastrophic mining waste dam failure in 2014. These recommendations have been globally recognized, including by the United Nations Environment Programme’s 2017 assessment of tailings dams failures, and by the multi-sector Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance standard. Until these recommendations are adopted and independently verified, preventable mining disasters will continue to occur wherever the mining industry operates.

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