On August 4th 2014 a dam holding back mine tailings slurry from the Imperial Metals copper mine on Mount Polley in British Columbia failed and sent over 3.8 BILLION gallons of water and mud spilling into a pristine Canadian environment and down into Quesinal Lake, the largest fresh water lake on earth.
The slurry contained high levels of selenium, arsenic and other dangerous contaminants.
One year and one day later, the EPA was responsible for a 3 million gallon slurry spill at the Gold King Mine in Silverton, CO. The slurry, containing high concentrations of arsenic, cadmium and lead, will settle in the silt bed of the river(s) into which it flows, to be stirred up with every rainstorm and washed eventually into the Colorado River and one of the main sources of drinking water for millions of Americans.
The EPA, which was managing the cleanup, “apologized”, and all fines and remediation costs, will of course be covered by us, the taxpayers. Will anyone go to jail? Will the EPA be forced to go out of business? Of course not.
Not so with the Mount Polley spill. The company responsible will need to file for bankruptcy protection and will most certainly go out of business.
What will happen to the managers of Imperial Metals’? Would you like to have been one of them? Losing their jobs or even doing jail time.
What about the stockholders and their invested wealth?
When storing waste slurry of any kind during mining operations, suspended solids or ash removal from geothermal or coal-fired power generation, drilling or fracking operations, or even simple cement slurry generated from concrete reclaim systems, it can become a long term liability to any company.
Management practices aimed at reducing the risk of spills by either handling these slurries as they are produced, or by reducing stocks in tailings or clean-out ponds, will pay dividends and can be regarded as a real cost effective solution and an investment in your company’s future operations.
Investment in filter press technology can significantly reduce your ‘catastrophic spill’ liability.