OK kids, let’s play a quick game of “What if?” What if… Pebble Mine was built? And what if all those lofty environmental promises spewing from mine stakeholders got washed away in a dam breach that sent billions of gallons of gnarly tailings cascading into salmon streams and lake systems?
Well, the result would look a lot like what recently went down at Mount Polley, an open pit copper and gold mine located in central British Columbia’s Cariboo region.
Last week What if’s turned into What now’s, when the dam holding back waste from Mount Polley mine failed, unleashing a toxic cocktail containing arsenic, mercury, and sulphur. According to one report, the spill sent 2.6 billion gallons of “potentially toxic liquid” and 1.3 billion gallons of “definitely toxic sludge” into pristine lakes, streams, and local drinking water supplies.
And as far as Pebble’s possibilities in Bristol Bay go, the disaster offers some unnerving parallels.
For instance, the company responsible for designing the earthen dam that failed is the same one—Knight Piesold—hired in 2006 by Northern Dynasty to design the earthern dams at Pebble. It’s also the same company hired on Pebble’s behalf to attack the EPA watershed assessment for Bristol Bay. And it’s the same company that said: “Modern dam design technologies are based on proven scientific/engineering principles, and there is no basis for asserting that they will not stand the test of time.”