Post-Development Monitoring – Really a subject of concern in Environmental Impact Assessment?

By Kajal Patel,

On August 4, 2014 breaking of the tailing pond of Mount Polley released over 10 million cubic meters of water and 4.5 million cubic of slurry into Polley lake in the Cariboo region of British Columbia, Canada. The slurry of the tailing pond continued flowing through the banks of Hazeltine Creek, Quensel Lake and further into the rivers [1]. This has resulted into a dreadful impact on the marine life, prohibition of utilizing the source of water as drinking water, temporary closure to the fishing activities and affecting the nearby tourists business. The polluter pay model in B.C effectively forced the company to submit a clean-up action plan and pay for the entire clean-up.  It was also given a notice to submit Environmental Impact Assessment to the ministry at a higher priority [2]. Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, stated that the disaster at Imperial is a stark reminder that inspections and enforcement procedures must be strengthened [3]

One of the other reasons for this failure could be an inadequate assessment of the environmental impacts of the mine and its waste disposal facilities before implementation. Another reason could be the negligence of the most crucial element termed as post-development monitoring in EIA. If the post-development monitoring was followed, regular monitoring of all the activities would be reported and audited. Such follow-up stage or the post-monitoring stage is performed in only a minority of cases and in many countries is probably the weakest step in the EIA process [4]. If it was implemented this would not had resulted in an increase in the height of the tailing dam without increasing the width. Moreover, an increase in the capacity of the tailing pond itself requires legal requirements and might be subjected to EIA. The capacity of the tailing pond had a concern since 2009 [5].  Three months before the disaster, the company was warned by the Ministry of Environment for their increasing amount of wastewater being discharged in the tailing dam [6]. Also, a foreman working there had mentioned that he had warned the company of the possibility of such disaster [7].

http://globalnews.ca/news/1495694/former-mount-polley-mine-employee-speaks-out-about-the-tailings-pond-breach/

If the Ministry of Environment had warned the industry issuing notices for the increase in capacity and also a foreman working had predicted the disaster, how can it occur? Can we either describe such an activity to be an accident or an induced disaster? EIA is thus, not only getting a permission to carry out an activity, but is also indeed one more step further after an activity. That is the Post-development Monitoring where each and every impact on the environment is given a check and if there is a possibility of the occurrence of an impact, immediate actions are taken to prevent them.

So for this disaster, the question comes who is to be blamed? And are there really loopholes in the post-development monitoring in EIA?

Leave your comments below.

REFERENCES

[1] National Post, 2014, August 05. Mount Polley Mine’s tailings pond breach of five million cubic metres of contaminated waste called massive environmental disaster. Retrieved September 20, 2014, from http://news.nationalpost.com/2014/08/05/mount-polley-mines-tailings-pond-breach-of-five-million-cubic-metres-of-contaminated-waste-called-massive-environmental-disaster/

[2] CBC News, 2014, August 06. Mount Polley mine tailings spill: Imperial Metals could face $1M fine. Retrieved September 29, 2014 from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/mount-polley-mine-tailings-spill-imperial-metals-could-face-1m-fine-1.2728832

[3] Green Party of Canada, 2014, August 06. Mount Polley Mine disaster should be a wake-up call. Retrieved September 30, 2014. https://www.greenparty.ca/media-release/2014-08-06/mount-polley-mine-disaster-should-be-wake-call

[4] Ramos et al., 2004, Environmental indicator frameworks to design and assess environmental monitoring programs, IAPA 22(1): 46-62.

[5] CBC News, 2014, August 05. Mount Polley Mine tailings water ‘very close’ to drinking quality, company says. Retrieved September 5, 2014, from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/mount-polley-mine-tailings-water-very-close-to-drinking-quality-company-says-1.2727776

[6] The Globe and Mail, 2014, August 11. One week after Mount Polley mine spill, what caused it – and what it does it mean for B.C.’s waterways? Retrieved September 15, 2014 from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/video/globe-now/video-globe-now-the-fallout-from-the-mount-polley-mine-spill-in-bc/article19987313/

[7] Mining.com, 2014, August 10. Canada’s Mount Polley disaster: experts warned tailings pond ‘getting large’. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from http://www.mining.com/canadas-mount-polley-disaster-experts-warned-tailings-pond-getting-large/?utm_source=digest-en-mining-140810&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=digest

Post-Development Monitoring – Really a subject of concern in Environmental Impact Assessment?

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