Tailings Facility Failures 1915-2014: An Integrated/Reconciled Compilation of ICOLD Bulletin 121 and WISE Supplemented by Carefully Vetted Compilations

A major work product of Bowker Chamber 2015 ( Risk-Public Liability-Economics of Tailings Storage Facility Failures” Bowker & Chambers, July 2015,) this downloadable excel of the data base we created for all authoritatively reported Tailings Facility Failures 1910-2009 is the most complete compilation known .

Dr. David M. Chambers ( Center for Science in Community Particpation) & Lindsay Newland Bowker ( Director, Bowker Associates Science & Research In The Public Interest)   are pleased to be able to share this machine readable compiilation with other researchers and to invite collaborative input to it to fill  gaps that still remain and add failures never reported.  Recently we discovered a 2007 catastrophic failure in Minas Gerais  that had not been previously reported at WISE.  It finally turned up at WISE 8 years later.


We found authoritative compilations of events in the Phillipines, Chile, and China that were not reported in WISE and were not included in ICOLD Bulletin 121 ( a global  compilation by survey through 2000).

A key attribute of our compilation is the severity rankings which are shown numerically and by color code.  The criteria governing these codes were total release, run out, and deaths.  Another key feature of our revised data base is identification of the event by correct  mine name . parent company, and subsidiary/operator.  That this protocol is not part of the WISE and original Bulletin 212 ICOLD compilations was an initial obstacle  not only to eliminating duplicates and identifying repeated occurrences at the same mine.  Not having correct mine name and parent company also hindered other research on the mine and the economic/financial circumstances leading up to failure.

We are collaboratively tracking, vetting and compiling authoritative data on post 2009 failures and  still filling in missing data on pre 2010 events.

We  hope to post annual updates to our compilation.which will also review trends and next decade rpedictions..  Based on data through December 31, 2014 we are still predicting 11 catatastrophic tailngs facility failures for the decade 2010-2019 at a cost of $6 billion globally.

Please forward all updates, additional data, additional information to Dr. Chambers and copy us at lindsaynewlandbowker@gmail.com.

David M. Chambers <dchambers@csp2.org>

Posted in Bowker Associates Science & Research In The Public Interest, Center For Science In Public Participation, David M. Chambers, ICOLD BULLETIN 121, Lindsay Newland Bowker, Tailings Facility Failures 1910-2015, Tailings Failures Globally By Seveeirty of Failure, WISE URANIUM DAM FAILURES | Leave a comment

Yellow Giant Mine Failure : Canada’s Flailing Against Declining Grades and Rising Production Costs

At its heart the Yellow Giant Mine failure which Van Couver Sun journalist Gordon Hoekstra, thankfully and with good research, is keeping front and center is about an improperly vetted and proven use of  pre-concentration technology.  The asset had not been proven as a resource at the time of approval by BC MOM and the selection of  pre concentration process technology was based on limited sampling .  The selected DMS concentration, is a relatively costly system which produces actual wet tailings slurry .  ( This link is to Vancouver Based Sepro Systems.  Their system has not been named as the system in use at Yellow Giant)
Sudbury 2011, an annual mining conference on innvoations in mining, featured pre concentration as  a possible approach to Canada’s mining crisis of tumbling grades and rising production costs calling on Canadian Miners to be more bold and forward thinking in the to create a “culture of innovation”  Sudbury 2011 correctly pointed to pre-construction as worthy of more attention in Canada for mine expansions , de novo mines,  underground mines unable to expand  within existing and those not able to provide concentrate at global market standards.. It offers the possibility of all that was focused on at Sudbury 2011 but the publicity it has gotten in Canada through the Yellow Giant Mine failure and stop work order does not serve the technology and its possibilities for Canadian mine problems well.
“Best Practice’ almost by definition requires  both “best knowledge” and “proven efficacy”.  Best Practice is not at all inherently incompatible with the call to innovation made at Sudbury 2011 on behalf of Pre-Construction.
But that does not appear to be  the story at Yellow Giant Mine.  What happened there is more like the “try it any way it might work” mentality of  the U.S. A’s  well funded and very influential mining industry/extraction industry lobby,   ITRC.  ITRC actually “trains”  state regulatory  personnel in the use of unproven technologies and requires a cult like pledge of State Agency members  to allow and promote them in mine expansions and de novo mining .
Proven Efficacy & Customary Place of Pre-Concentration
Pre-Concentration is a method of separating up to 50% of the non ore bearing wastes underground before hoisting to the surface for finish processing.  The separated non ore bearing underground waste in most ystems directy bacfills as produced, That reduces the throughput volume ( what goes to the mill for finish processing to concentrate ) by 50% as well  and  elevates both the concentration of ore in the concentrate and also the overall grade of the concentrate viz global standards while minimizing the above ground footprint including the footprint of an existing TSF.
It’s proven efficacy, according to the pre-concentration sector is both to improve margins ( ie make a mine economically feasible that might not otherwise be performing)..it’s an extra step in the process of creating a final marketable concentrate meeting global standards.   The system at Banks Island committed to deliver concentrate at AU56g/t gold, well above what is normally achievable without pre concentration.
In its more customary uses pre concentration  at a site also producing concentrate would then still have a tailings residue at the end of the process and would still need a tailings management plan for that waste, essentially the other 50%.
Backfill at Yellow Giant Apparent Source of Pollution
Backfill deposition and evaluatin of materials is as much an issue in pre concentration systems as in any other backfill.  Yellow Giant has 5% total sulphur and has very high arsenic and is therefore potentially acid generating.

Thus, backfilling of underground workings is

often regarded as best practice for the rehabilitation of mining voids (e.g.,

MEND, 1995). Such backfilled waste is often regarded to be as chemically

and physically secure as the original mined ore. In particular, the disposal

of tailings below the groundwater table reduces the amount of reactive

material that would be available for oxidation. Nevertheless, if the tailings

are stored above the groundwater table without a dry or wet cover,

oxidation may generate metal-rich acid leachate (Morin and Hutt, 1997).

The leachate in most cases will be transported in the saturated zone of

surficial aquifers where the prevailing groundwater flow will produce metal

and metalloid rich plumes down gradient from the mine workings (e.g.,

Warren et al., 1997; Younger, 2000). This study is based on seasonal

groundwater measurements and sampling and the results of kinetic leaching

experiments in combination with hydrological modelling. ”


System designs directly dispose of wastes as generated out of the  sorting system  as produced.

The B.C. MOM stop work order requires submission and approval of a waste management plan. The February 2013 technical report by Baldwin, now posted up at Banks Island’s website does not address or describe the specifics of the back fill/ separated waste materials.

Here is an excellent study exploring the efficacy of pre-concentration in mafic ores at several mines in Sudbury struggling wiith declining grades and rising costs..  This is the “culture of innovation” Sudbury 2011 pointed to and the level of work  that should attend any mine expansion or attempted save.
Yellow Giant Mine Deviation From Proven Applications of Pre-Concentration
At Yellow Giant Mine there are no details in the NI 43 101  on Yellow Giant Mines’ “scheme” nor have we found any other  sources with details on the  management plan for the 50% that stays underground and is usually directly applied as backfill.  It is materials of a uniform pre specified size and contains all the same minerology except lower levels of the targeted ore .  So its geochemical and metal profile is unaltered . Without pre concentration all would have ended up in tailings above ground after mill throughput.
The permit at Yellow Giant Mine did allow the underground deposition of the pre separated waste from pre concentrated ore but we have no details on any pre testing that was done on the waste stream or underground deposition plan.  The NI 43-101, which offers the best overall summary of history, study, mine pan etc.  also offer no details on that part of the plan dealing with the pre-concentration waste and its management. It does though characterize the entire scheme as “possible” based on lab tests viz the production of pre-concentrate .  It also repeatedly emphasized that the asset itself was not a proven resource based on all drill core and analysis which existed as of the time of the  permit application and fund raising via TSX.
The Fiscal Acrobatics of the Yellow Giant Mine Plan
The Gold’ Report’s Louis James, a specialists in promising pecative gold ventures is an investor and promoter of the Yellow Giant project calling it the “little mine that could”
The original Yellow Giant Mine version of Pre-concentration was to ship the pre -concentrate to Nevada. ( Imperial Metals acquired the Yellow Giant Mine asset in 2009 along with Ruddock Creek and also owns an asset in Nevada.  The destination smelter was not named.  Banks Island Gold leases from Imperial who have not been confirmed to have any direct role in operations or control).  It appears that in stead Banks Island entered an offload agreement with a small  NY  commodities broker, Metallica Resources Ltd.  The agreement required delivery monthly to them of a certain volume of concentrate grading not less than  AU56g/t.  Banks Island announced its proof of success in producing “marketable concentrate” claiming a  “realized price of $1,493” and a grade of AU67g/t.
 Feasibility assumes gross revenue ( before costs) to be 80% of market price.  A market price of $1360 was specified as the minimum for financial feasibility.At the time of the report the price of gold was briefly at $1,700 per oz.
According to the February 2013 NI 43-101 the , the Bob Zone, the main focus of the extraction plan , had total sulphur level of 5.0% & and high arsenic levels in new samples analyzed in 2011 and 2012..  It required a mill capable of handling the high arsenic.   Global arsenic standards are 0.5%  for concentrates. Excess of this level have price penalties  or will not be accepted at all .
At the time B.C. Ministry of Mines approved this permit the global price of gold was around $1,095/oz. .At the time the Imperial Metals subsidiary announced its success in producing a marketable concentrate the price of gold was already below the level required for financial feasibility at $1,200.
B.C. Ministry of Mines and Environment Canada Co-Responsible for Yellow Giant Mine public will bear whatever Costs there are for damages
The level of financial risk the B.C. Ministry of Mines and Environment Canada seems to be willing to tolerate in its struggle to overcome 70 years of below world average head grades and rising production costs will very clearly exponentially elevate environmental security risks if this “culture of innovation” doesn’t  also require careful vetting of both financial and environmental viability.
Further Reform Needed At TSX
It is important to note that the TSX bears some scrutiny as well.  Should a non proven resource even be allowed to raise capital in public markets for other than exploration and feasibility? This group ( the Board of Yellow Giant Mine) raised $25 million for an actual mine operation for a resource that wasn’t even proven.   Recently the stock was trading at 0.02 so presumably those investors are out that $25 million.  It is clear from the financials of this group that any correction or clean up will be entirely at the publics expense.  ( There are no details available on closure security, if any)
See notes below on corrections and retractions TSX require to the Yellow Giant NI 43 101/
They still allowed TSX listing for operations and production for an unproven resource. Id this allowed on the American or NY exchanges?
August 5, 2015 Stonington Maine
Lindsay Newland Bowker, CPCU, ARM Environmental Risk Manager
Bowker Associates
Science & Research In The Public Interest
February 2013 Banks Island announces production of marketable concentrate.”Gold concentrates, representing 55.4 tonnes, averaged 66.7gpt Au, 286gpt Ag, and 6.7% Cu. The minimum required quality for gold concentrate under the off take agreement is 50gpt Au.” off take agreement is  with Metallica Commodities Corp.  The price was $1,200.  $1300 plus was needed for financial feasibility.
July 31 2015 Gitxaala Leaders say they never approved the mine ( which is onheir unceded lands) and that it as affected harvest areas important to the Gitxaala people.  Banks Island refuses to obey shut down order.https://ricochet.media/en/537/banks-island-gold-refused-to-shut-down-mine-after-spill-in-remote-coastal-bc
Harsh Commentray and supporting data on Banks Island Financials  criticism of promotion of mine as a good investment  http://incakolanews.blogspot.com/2015/07/a-comment-on-banks-island-gold-bozv.html
Retractions & Correctpns to Ni 43101 for Yellow Gant that were non complianthttp://www.banksislandgold.com/s/NewsReleases.asp?ReportID=569853&_Type=News-Releases&_Title=Banks-Island-Gold-Ltd.-Clarifies-Technical-Disclosure
Banks Island Gold Statement on Shut Down Order & Circumstances Prompting It
“It is notable that the Yellow Giant project has no surface storage of tailings. Banks Island Gold Ltd. is one of the only operators in the world that is successfully operating a Dense Media Separation (“DMS”) plant to pre-concentrate a primary gold ore. Pre-concentration rejects up to 50% of the mined mass in a coarse gravel sized product resulting in sufficient void space in underground workings to dispose of all tailings underground. “
North American Broker offering quick settlement on gold and silver concentrates .http://www.crestonebusinessgroup.com/gold-silver/  Crest One has not been identified as in anyway associated with the Yellow Giant/Banks Island  project.  provided as general background on  trade and markets in gold and silver concentrates.
 http://finance.yahoo.com/news/bcgold-corp-signs-agreements-sell-124000305.html BCGold Corp. (BCG.VNews)(BCGOF.PKNews) (or the “Company”) is pleased to announce that it has entered into a concentrate purchase agreement (the “Purchase Agreement”) with Auramet Trading, LLC (“Auramet”), a New Jersey-based precious metals merchant, to facilitate the sale of approximately 0.8 dry metric tonnes (dmt) of gold-rich gravity concentrate produced during bulk sampling at the Engineer Mine in 2011. Auramet has arranged a secondary agreement between BCGold Corp. and Sipi Metals Corp. (“SiPi”), a precious metal refinery situated in Chicago, Illinois, with respect to refining terms and treatment charges for the recovery of gold and silver from the concentrate.”
 In April 2015 Yellow Giant reached definitive purchase agreement for silver with Silver Stream  SECZ http://finance.yahoo.com/news/banks-island-gold-executes-definitive-210000770.html
Posted in Bowker Associates Science & Research In The Public Interest, Canadian Mining, Gordon Hoekstra, High Total Sulphur, Imerial Metals, Lindsay Newland Bowker, Mine Risk Management, Pre Concentration, Public Liability & Financial Risk, Sudbury 2011, Tailings Risk Management, Yellow Giant Mine, Yellow Giant Mine Failure | Leave a comment

20 Million Cubic Meter Tailings Facility At Gold Ridge Mine, Solomon Islands Teeters On Brink Of Collapse: Mining Journals Silent

Contact: 207 367 5145 lindsaynewlandbowker@gmail.com Attracting no attention in any mining journals or U.S./ Canadian Press, the Gold Ridge Mine near Guadalcanal was declared a disaster  on July 7th, it’s 50m high  20 million cubic meter TSF, in danger of imminent failure . To avert that failure local government has approved a daily release of 12,000 cubic meters into the Motopano River, a drinking source for 8,000 downstream, even though a UNESCO report on behalf of local government had advised that an emergency release of untreated waters should not exceed 3,375 cubic meters per day. A coalition of 17 tribes who owned and settled the land before being displaced for mining and other development, acquired Gold Ridge Mine for $A100 from last owner St Barbara Ltd in May 2014.  St Barbara, was locked out by local government who charged that they had abandoned the site in unsafe condition and without notice following a typhoon and flash flooding that added water levels to the TSF that were not  provided for in design. St Barbara was  the last mining company owner in a long chain of mining musical chairs at this mine that was a victim of its own flawed planning and engineering. How this modern mine , which started operation in 1998 and stopped mid 2001, came to this crisis state and the fact that no mining journals are reporting it, is significant as we lead up to the first anniversary of the failure of Mt. Polley in British Columbia.


At Mt Polley also excessive water levels on top of tailings that ultimately triggered failure were under negotiation .  Imperial, had applied for a permit to discharge untreated waters in 2012 and had agreed, after in depth study lead by Brian Olding Associates  on behalf of First Nations, that discharge needed to be held in ponds and settled before release.St. Barbara had also requested permission for a controlled  untreated release of  the 540,000  cubic meters.  Local government had insisted on repair of the damaged water treatment plant and only controlled release of treated discharge a recommendation upheld by UNESCO..Local Government ,who were frustrated with, and mistrustful of, St Barbara had sought help and guidance from UNESCO…

St Barbara assumed, and was presumably bound by  the terms and conditions of  financing via IFC and World Bank which required that any emergency discharges be to drinking water standards.   The petition St Barbara made for untreated release was inconsistent with that IFC/World Bank condition. The 540,000  cubic meter accumulation now to be released at three times the safe dilution rate specified by UNESCO does not meet these standards

.No details are available on IFC/World Banks role in the sale to local tribes for $a100 and whether IFC had forgiven St. Barbara’s debt. Seems likely though that the transfer of liabilities also potentially benefited IFC.  It remains to be seen whther Australian Courts will allow this transfer  of liabilities to  an unfunded and inexperienced wner.

At Mt Polley one year later  there is still not even an assessment of damages, an approved remediation plan let alone a clean up plan underway. Gold Ridge Mt Polley and  almost all of the 29 prior catastrophic dam failures in recorded history are  the result of miners avoiding the public loss  and other consequences of their own faulty management decisions and practices  and of regulatory systems which allow this to happen. What Imperial has expended as “clean up” is just stabilization and repair of the TSF itself in preparation for safe and questionably pre funded permanent closure. and expenditure for what amounts to a mine expansion confiscating Hazeltine Creek for use as settling ponds.

Meanwhile, according to Imperial,  only about $47 million supposedly ear marked is available to actually do any remediation if and when a remediation plan is formed and approved, or damages are calculated for the totally avoidable failure that occurred last August 4t..

Both Mt Polley and Gold Ridge are ultimately stories of miners not accepting or being able to fund the public liability loss resulting from their own business decisions and from ineffective regulations which failing to notice or  monitor the emerging financial risk and its continually elevating effect on environmental risk.

The Australian export credit agency, EFIC and poor planning and vetting on the art of the original miner Ross Mining N.L., set in motion the chain of events that has led to this crisis1/ and the decision to allow an unsafe  rate of release of 540,000 cubic meters of untreated waters threatening collapse,


In Australia miners and mining journals,are locked in deep denial in their examination and discussion of the Gold Ride crisis. They insist the fault is with local corruption and political unrest and with the 2013 typhoon. According to one reputable mining economist close to St. Barbara, the company itself still believes it could have made a go of it but for political unrest . According to this economist, who has asked not to be named or cited,  the company did acknowledge they  relied on Australian Trade Officials  in lieu of vetting they should have conducted independently.. No one in Australia though is talking about what went wrong and when, or discussing the actual chain of events leading to this crisis and this unsafe level of release of untreated waters. As at Mt Polley and as partially explicated in the Dam Committee report, the crisis at Mt Polley was also about the miners economic need to get approval for release of   untreated Mine waters at variance with permit terms and conditions. First Nations, with technical and scientific assistance from Brian Olding Associates had determined in 2012 that such a release was not environmentally sound or consistent with permit requirements and that settling ponds were needed to clear the water of sediment prior to release. Although Imperial had agreed , no settlement ponds were designed or underway as water continued to accumulate to near overtopping and finally lead to collapse. Under the guise of “cleanup”  and bank stabilization,  Imperial has now reconfigured Hazeltine Creek to provide the settlement ponds.

The dam committee report specifically noted that all of the deviating dam elevations post 2012 were about water storage problems and those problems were key to collapse.

That same set of conditions exists at Gold Ride one year later on the other side of the world.. This competent persons report on Gold Ridge prepared for Allied, St Barbara’s most recent predecessor in 2011 tells a very different story of how this crisis emerged and puts a very different light on what the Australian mining sector refers to as “corruption and political unrest” creating an impossible business environment for mining.

Story of Gold Ridge Primarily a Story of Faulty Vetting and Planning ,Poorly Informed Management Decisions 

Without oversimplifying or stepping too far beyond the proper knowledge boundaries of a risk manager , the story is that the resource itself was not properly evaluated and the plant designed was incompatible with the fundamental geochemistry and characteristics of actual mill input.

“The Gold Ridge processing plant treated 4.4 million tonnes of ore from the Valehaichichi pit from August

1998 until the plant was shut down due to escalating civil unrest in June 2000. The plant produced

approximately 210,000 ounces of gold at a mean gold recovery of around 78%. Gold recovery generally

trended downwards during the period of operations ranging from a high of 86% in May 1999 to a low of 68% in April 2000


In 2005 ASG initiated a metallurgical testwork programme to resolve the reasons for the poor

metallurgical performance within segments of the deposits.

EFIC , the Australian Export Credit Agency which had provided both political risk insurance and financing for the original project, apparently bailed out after Ross Mining abandoned the mine refusing to support miner XYZ and then Allied in its takeover and redevelopment plans.  World Bank/IFC took over after acquisition by larger and stronger Allied.

Allied’s restructuring/reconfiguration focused on a strategy to solve the problems Ross Mining had encountered by increasing the process capacity of the plant so that very high costs could be spread over a larger volume of through put..  This plan through was not supported by any substantive reassessment of the resource or its characteristics.  Although the plan called for far more output to the TSF than had been planned and also an ultimate change in height of the facility, no substantive changes were made as Allied pressed ahead into production quickly encountering the exact same problems Ross had encountered.  The project was not made economically viable through Allied’s efforts  and the Competent Person Assessment was an effort to seek a  correction.

Apparently on the basis of this reprt, Allied  sold to St Baraba who inerited all the problems documented without any investment or reconfiguration to solve those problems. which also plagued St Barbara during its very brief tenure before the typhoon. .


. 1/Risky Business Shining A Spotight on Australias Export Credit Agency  A report by Jublilee Australia Digging Into the Roots of Poverty Luke Fletcher With Scott Kickie & Adele Webb December 2009 http://www.jubileeaustralia.org

News Updates Additional Links

August 7, 2015 http://www.sibconline.com.sb/st-barbara-should-do-the-dewatering-concerned-man/  Concern about adequate technical capacity to execute the dewatering safely and in accordance with World Health Organization Standards.


St Barbara makes public defense of its actions  http://www.radionz.co.nz/international/pacific-news/282395/australian-miner-rejects-gold-ridge-claims

Andrew Morton Story..Land Owners blame St Barbara seek delisting on AUX http://www.solomonstarnews.com/news/national/8190-claim-of-40m-eco-disaster

St Barbaras stock rebounds from near bottom out on avoiding tailings repairs at Gold Ridge

St Barbara Ltd (ASX: SBM) share price gained 360% to $0.57. The gold miner was at the bottom of a pit a year ago, with concerns over its Gold Ridge mine in the Solomon islands. The mine was finally sold to the Solomon Islands government for a nominal sum, relieving St Barbara of expensive repair work to the tailings storage facility. Operations at the mine were suspended in April 2014 after torrential rainfall. Add in record annual production from the company’s Gwalia and Simberi mines at an all-in sustaining cost of $1,007 per ounce in financial year 2015, and St Barbara has truly turned the tables on lady luck  http://www.fool.com.au/2015/09/04/5-asx-stocks-that-have-gained-more-than-300-in-the-past-year/


Tailings Dam Waters Will Be Treated Before Release: Equipment In Customs and Awaiting Installation: Release Rate Still Too Fast Per UNESCO


According to details in this article the release will still take place in 90 days instead of over 6 months as recommended by UNESCO as necessary for the  safest dilution for the receiving waters..  Not clear whether the first waters will by pass treatment ( as suggested by this article).


Owners Commit to Further Repairs At Gold Ridge In Hope of Attracting Buyers


Landowners ,who still have not apparently sought expert independent analysis , are undertaking infrastructure repairs and repairs to the mines facilities.  They claim interest from a Chinese investor, likely the notorious Zinjin and from a Canaduan and an Australian investor. Negotiations with other investors fell apart in part over landowners expectation of initial compensation covering what had been previously promised and was owed to them by past miners.

Zinjin has been divested by Norway for corruption and human rights abuses in mining.  They are associated with a disproportionate number of catastrophic dam failures.  ( See .Tailings Dam Failures 1915-2014 at http://www.csp2.org). It is interesting to note that North Solomon mine, Panguna at Bougainville had a similar history and similar difficulty fnding a flow sheet that could extract and process profitably.

Gold prices are well below what had been previously set as a the minimum for economic viability at Gold Ridge.

The Solomon Islands have not developed or taken steps to develop a strong well informed statutory and regulatory system for mining.

Posted in Bowker Associates Science & Research In The Public Interest, EFIC, Gold Ridge Mine, IFC, Jubilee Australia, Lindsay Newland Bowker, Mining Risk Management, solomon islands mining history, St Barbara Ltd., Tailings Dam Failures, tailings dewatering, Tailings Risk Management, World Bank | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Interdisciplinary Research Reveals Global Trend of Tailings Dam Failures That Will Result In $6 billion in Unfunded Unfundable Public Liability 2010-2019


David Chambers, President Center for Science In Public Participation , Bozeman Montana  (406-585-9854)
Lindsay Newland Bowker, Director Bowker Associates Science & Research In The Public Interest  Stonington, Maine

207 367 5145

Catastrophic mine waste spills increasing in frequency, severity and cost world-wide

On 1st anniversary of North America’s worst mine waste disaster, in-depth analysis shows Mount Polley tailings dam failure is part of a global trend attributable to industry and regulatory failure to implement best practices

July 29th — On the 1st anniversary of North America’s worst mining waste spill at the Mount Polley Mine in British Columbia, a new interdisciplinary analysis reveals  that such catastrophic spills are increasing in frequency, severity and cost. The Risk, Public Liability, and Economics of Tailings Storage Facility Failures shows that modern metal mining techniques have driven the creation of increasingly more risky mine waste facilities, enabled by  regulators that have failed to require best practices to minimize financial and environmental risk.  These failures are almost all the result of the failure of regulatory agencies to require, and the industry’s failure to follow, known best practices.

Co-authored by Lindsay Newland Bowker, Director, Bowker Associates, Science & Research In The Public Interest, and David Chambers, Ph.D., a mining technical specialist, the report’s primary findings include:

  • The rate of serious tailings dam failures is increasing. Half (33 of 67) of serious tailings dam failures in the last 70 years  occurred in the 20 years between 1990 and 2009
    • The increasing rate of tailings dam failures is propelled by, not in spite of, modern mining practices. The increasing rate of tailings dam failures is directly related to the the increasing number of TSFs larger than 5 million cubic meter capacity necessitated to allow the economic extraction of lower grades of ore.
    • 11 catastrophic failures are predicted globally from 2010 to 2019. . Predicted total cost of these 11 failures is $6 billion , virtually all unfunded and unfundable..
  • The average cost of the these  catastrophic dam failures is $543 million as determined by actual court records and other official documents on government efforts to recoup clean up and recovery costs from miners who walked away without paying for the damages they caused. .
  • Mining companies cannot afford, and cannot secure insurance to cover, the costs of catastrophic failures that are not “acts of God”: Losses, both economic and ecological, are in large part either permanent and non-recoverable, or recovery — to the extent physically possible —  funded by public monies.

“More mining waste disasters like Mount Polley are inevitable,” said David Chambers, report co-author and director of the Center of Science in Public Participation. He continued, “If mining practices continue as usual, we are going to see more severe spills, more frequently, that will cost the public hundreds of millions to billions of dollars to clean up.”

“Our research shows that  most of the 29 known catastrophic failures of tailings dams in recorded history  are the result of poorly informed  consciously made business and management decisions by miners who then refuse, or are financially unable , to accept the public loss and consequence of those decisions.” said report co-author Lindsay Newland Bowker. “  Of course, regulatory systems which allow this to happen also contribute by not recognizing deviation from accepted practice and the unfolding of financial risk as it evolves  and escalates environmental risk to a level of public disaster.”

“As a result of the Mount Polley investigation, mining companies and regulators know they have to change mine waste disposal practices to minimize the risk of future disasters,” said Chambers. He continued, “Unfortunately, as evidenced by the recent approvals for mines in the Alaska/British Columbia transboundary area, they are failing to do so.”

Mining tailings are the waste left over after metal ore has been processed. They are disposed of by dumping behind huge earthen tailings dams. On August 4, 2015, the Mount Polley Mine failed, releasing an estimated 25 million cubic meters of waste into the Fraser River watershed.

Link to full report: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0Bw0jCpuVRzgEUkp2OXFaV1FlVm94dDZYYmJtQmExYWJ1eWhZ/view?usp=sharing

Posted in Andre Mc G. Robertson, Catatrophic Tailings Dam Failures, CU Average Grade 1910 2010, CU Average Ore Production 1910 2010, CUCosts of Production 1910 2010, David M. Chambers, Lindsay Newland Bowker, Mining Economics, Tailings Risk Management, World Bank | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Self Bonding For $2.7 billion in Closure Costs Could Translate to Public Liability Federal Lawmakers Fear


This article reports a re examination of the public liability implications of U.S. federal policy allowing “self bonded” financial closure for coal miners. The issues raised are obviously also relevant for metallic mining  under regulatory requirements for financial assurance for closure  which also  allow “self bonding”

Accoridng to this Business Insurance article:

“The country’s four largest coal companies — Peabody Energy, Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal and Cloud Peak Energy — together have about $2.7 billion in clean-up costs covered by self bonding, according to securities filings and regulators.”

(This is not for clean up after a failure this is for closure at conclusion on mining operations at a given site underpermit should the miner abandon or otherwise become unable to perform the closure and associated “clean up” )

Closure bond requirements for the Pebble mine would have been close to $1Billion.

Responding to the federal re examination of its “self bonding” policy, Fitch Ratings Inc. estimates that if tighter and better financial assurance for closure were required, as presently being considered by federal law makers, it could actually bankrupt or seriously impair miners and also have a de stabilizing influence on the industry possibly  precipitating a wave of failures.

“Last week, Fitch Ratings Inc. warned that tougher rules for self-bonding could push leading coal companies closer to bankruptcy. ‘Tighter self-bonding requirements for distressed coal entities would reduce liquidity and could hasten restructuring,” Fitch Ratings wrote.'”

The details of the “tighter requirements” aren’t included in the Business Insurance article  but presumably  deal with how the “self bonding” is treated “on the books” and/ or how the funding works ( trust account, segregated audited account,  other methods which encumber the “self bonded” in the same way that a formal corporate self insured retention would,  or which create a legally binding site specific encumbrance of the bonded amounts surviving bankruptcy..

In other words Fitch is saying that the  “self bonded” companies are not actually strong enough  financially to back the $2.7 billion already under approved “self fundied”bonds.

Federal lawmakers are rightly concerned that this already incurred $2.7 billion in “self bonded ” financial assurance for closure costs  may be in large part an existing unfunded unfundable public liability.

The issue when liabilities reach a level of being un fundable for something as basic and essential as having financial assurance for a stable and safe mine closure,  is not a funding problem it is a problem with the way mines are vetted in the fist place, who applications are accepted from and how financial feasibility of mine and financial viability of operator are monitored life of mine by independent experts in mine economics and mine finance.

The Federal government is looking down the same black hole on how much of this $2.7 billion is actually there as Bowker Chambers 2015 point to (1). How will this $2.7 billion be re-financed if the industry itself is not capable of funding/financing its liabilities with greater accountability to availability of the funds should they be required for closure? 

Were these companes actually financial capable of guaranteeing the availability of these funds in the event of a bankruptcy  or abandonment prior to closure at the time the applications were under review?  Every mine statute we have looked at requires a determination of the “financial and technical capacity of the applicant” but none we have seen actually have a rigorous or even reasoned set of standards for vetting that The real issue is  that the miner and the financial capacity of their mines may not have  existed when the mine permits were issued and there was nothing built into the regulatory framework to make that determination.

Although a performance bond is a fundamentally different instrument from insurance ( in that it comes into play only when the company cannot  or will not perform) there is nothing inherently wrong with self bonding just as there is nothing wrong with a formally created self insured retention program.  But there is something inherently wrong with a system that approves self bonding for companies that are actually not capable  of making good on that should the bonds have to called on. The whole nature of a “performance bond” is to guarantee performance when the  company fails to perform for any reason.  That requires a very different structure and legal mechanism to guarantee availability of the funds outside of bankruptcy or financial impacts on the company as a whole should the bonds be called.

All of this argues for independent expert panels in mine economics and mine finance to create  financial capacity, financial assurance standards in the first place ; vet  applicants and the mineralized assets pre-application, and monitor state of both mine feasibility and miner financial capacity life of mine.

To do otherwise  essentially makes the local community the ultimate underwriter .

The answer as Bowker Associates has long argued is better standrds on the financial capacity of the appliants pre mining and better vetting on the catual economic feasibility of the endeavor INCLUSIVE OF CLOSURE COSTS AND OF ALL OTHER ESSENTIAL ENVIRONMENTAL MEASURES/TECHNOLOGIES LIFE OF MINE.

Lindsay Newland Bowker, CPCU, ARM Environmental Risk Manager

Bowker Associates

Science & Research In The Public Interest

15 Cove Meadow Rd.

Stonington, Maine 04681

207 367 5145



​1/ Bowker Lindsay Newland and Chambers David M.​ The RISK, PUBLIC LIABILITY, & ECONOMICS  of TAILINGS STORAGE FACILITY FAILURES , June 2015 ( To be Presented at  the 2015 North LatitudesMiningReclamation Workshop ,  and to be released soon, draft copies available for review)

Posted in Bowker Associates, David Chambers, mining environmental risk management, mining public liability, Mining Risk Management, self funding mine closure bonds | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

TSF FAILURE BIBLIOGRAPHY: A Compilation Including Local & Regional Analysis of Consequence of Failure

This bibliography is from a draft paper (Bowker Chambers(2015)) examining the consequence of TSF Failures globally 1910 to 2010 and exploring he relationship between global economics and failure over time.   The bibliography itself is a major contribution to the understanding of TSF Failures because of its emphasis on consequence to affected communities and regions.   It also provides insights to the events leading up to failure that are not accounted for in legal and regulatory framework for mining nor in the usual dam committee reports which focus on causes of failure.  So in that sense this unique bibliography opens the door to causes and consequences not commonly part of the conversation on tailings failures.

It is our intent that this bibliography of consequence and economic causes of TSF failures grow over time both in further development of our work  and through the contributions of our colleagues and readers here for Bowker Associates ( lindsaynewlandbowker@gmail.com) and at Center for Science in Public Participation( http://www.csp2.org dchambers@csp2.org)

Bowker Associates has taken the unusual step of releasing our bibliography in advance of publication & release of our paper because tailings failures are so much in the fore of public discussion as are a result of Mt. Polley an den  bibliographies of relevant work are so complete.

Bowker.Lindsay Newland, Chambers David M (draft).The Risk Public Liability & Economics of Tailings Storage Facility Failures to be released June 2015


Advani 2011.  Advani, Sameer  “Real Historical Copper Price”, May 30,2011, Sameer Advani’s Instablog http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/946411-sameer-advani/182708-real-historical-copper-price

Azam & Li 2010.  Azam, Shahid Li, Quiran “Tailings Dam Failures: A Review of the Last 100 Years”, Geotechnical News December 2010 http://www.infomine.com/library/publications/docs/Azam2010.pdf

Bertram 2010.  Bertram, Geoff “Mining Economics & The Conservation Estate” Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society of New Zealand Inc., September 2010 accessed November 2014 http://www.geoffbertram.com/fileadmin/Mining%20Economics%20and%20the%20Conservation%20Estate%20main%20text.pdf

Boswell & Sobkowicz 2011.  Boswell, Jeremy, Sobkowicz, John  “Duty Of Care Applied To Tailings Operations”, Proceeding Tailings & Mine Waster, Vancouver B.C. Nov 6-9 2011 http://www.infomine.com/library/publications/docs/Boswell2011.pdf

BCMM 2013.  British Columbia Ministry of Mines “ Provincial Summary Exploration and Mining In British Columbia 2013” http://www.empr.gov.bc.ca/Mining/Geoscience/PublicationsCatalogue/InformationCirculars/Documents/IC_2014-01.pdf

BCOAG 2011.  British Columbia, Office of the Auditor General “An Audit of the Enviornmnetal Assessments Office Oversight  of Certified Projects, July 2011 http://www.bcauditor.com/pubs/2011/report4/audit-bc-environmental-assessment-office-EAO

Caldwell 2006.  Caldwell,Jack “British Columbia Tailings Failure at The  HB Mine Near Salmo, British Columbia”, TechnoMine July 6, 2006 http://technology.infomine.com/articles/1/8455/tailings.failure.canada/british.columbia.tailings.aspx

COAG 2014.  Canada, Office of the Auditor General “Implementation of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, 2014 Fall Report of the Commissioner of Environment and Sustainable Development http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_cesd_201410_04_e_39851.html

Chambers & Higman 2011.  Chambers, David M.,  Higman, Bretwood ”Long Term Risks Of Tailings Dam Failure,”  October 2001, accessed November 2014 at http://www.csp2.org/technical-reports

Davies et. al. 2002.  Davies, Michael, Martin,Todd  and Peter Lighthall  “Mine Tailings Dams: When Things Go Wrong,” AGRA Earth & Environmental Limited, Burnaby, BC 2002 http://www.infomine.com/library/publications/docs/Davies2002d.pdf

Davies & Martin 2009.  Davies, Michael,   Martin,Todd  “Mining Market Cycles and Tailings Dam Incidents,” AMEC Earth & Environmental, Vancouver, British Columbia, Proceeding of the Thirteenth International Conference on Tailings and Mine Waste, November 1, 2009, Banff, Alberta, Canada accessed November 2014 at http://www.infomine.com/library/publications/docs/Davies2009.pdf

EGN 2014.  Ecology Global Network “Population Estimates: Year 1 to 2050”  accessed November 2014 at http://www.ecology.com/population-estimates-year-2050/

ICMM 2012.  International Council on Mining & Metals, “Trends in the Mining & Metals Industry” Mining’s Contribution To Sustainable Development October 2012.  Accessed November 2014 at http://www.icmm.com/document/4441 M

ICOLD 1995.  International Commission on Large Dams, “Dam Failures Statistical Analysis,” Bulletin 99, 1995

ICOLD 2001.  International Commission on Large Dams and the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Division of Technology, Industry and Economics (DTIE), “Tailings Dams Risks of Dangerous Occurrences Lessons Learned From Practical Experiences,” Bulletin 121, 2001

ICSG 2014.  International Copper Study Group, Copper production statistics, November 13, 2014.

IFC 2003.  Striking a Better Balance, the World Bank Group and Extractive Industries, the Final Report of the Extractive Industries Review, International Finance Corporation, December 2003

Independent Panel 2015.  Report on Mount Polley Tailings Storage Facility Breach, Independent Expert Engineering Investigation and Review Panel, Province of British Columbia, January 30, 2015

Jakubekl et. al. 2013.  Jakubekl, Jaret ,  Clayon, Russel, Guest Alan R., “Mudrush Risk Evaluation” CIM Journal 2013 accessed November 2014 at http://www.srk.com/files/pdfs/mudrushriskevaluation_paper_cim_journal_fnl_20130322_jj.pdfailings

Jones 2014.  Jones, Sam Jordan, Editor/Compiler “Global Mining Finance Guide 2014” Aspermont Media 2013 accessed November 2014 at http://www.mayerbrown.com/files/Publication/3e2dc5e3-878a-40a2-8b06-cb75f8d632ba/Presentation/PublicationAttachment/86b233d1-beb2-4f47-9b85-cd4793b90b92/global_mining_finance_guide_jan14.PDF

Kelly & Matos 2013.  Kelly, T.D., and Matos, G.R., comps., 2013, Historical statistics for mineral and material commodities in the United States (2013 version): U.S. Geological Survey Data Series 140, accessed November 2014, at http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/historical-statistics/.

Knight Piesold 2011.  Knight Piesold Ltd., Mount Polley Mining Corporation Mt Polley Mine Storage Facility Report of 2010 Annual Inspection”, Prepared for Mt. Polley Mining Corporation, January 25, 2011 http://www.scribd.com/doc/241108453/Mount-Polley-Mine-Tailings-Storage-Facility-Report-on-2010-annual-inspection-by-Knight-Piesold

Kossoff et. al. 2014.  Kossoff, D. Dubbin, W.E.Porter, Edwards, S.J. , Macklin, M.G., Hudson Edwards, K.A.  “Mine Tailings Dams: Characteristics, Failure, Environmental Impacts, and Remediation”, Applied Geochemistry  V.51, 2014 PP 229-245  accessed November 2014 at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeochem.2014.09.010

Porter & Beliwas 2003.  Porter,Kenneth E., Beliwas ,Donald I., Physical Aspects Of Waste Storage From a Hypothetical Open Pit Porphyrry Operation, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, 2003, accessed November 2014 at http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2003/of03-143/of03-143.pdf

Repetto 2014.  Repetto, Robert “Silence is Golden, Leaden and Copper Disclosure of Material Environmental Information in the Hardrock Mining Industry” Yale School Of Forestry & Environmental Studies, July 2004 accessed November 2014 at http://environment.research.yale.edu/documents/downloads/o-u/repetto_report_execsum.pdf

Rico et al. 2007.  Rico, M., Benito, G., Díez-Herrero, A. “Floods From Tailings Dam Failures” Geological Hazards Unit, Spanish Geological Survey (IGME), Madrid, Spain, October 2, 2007 http://digital.csic.es/bitstream/10261/12706/3/MayteRico_10.pdf

Rico et al. 2008.  Rico, M. Benito, G., Salgueriro, A. Diez-Herrero, A. & Pereira, H.G. Reported Tailings Dam Failures: A review of the European Incidents in the Worldwide Context, Journal of Hazardous Materials 152 (2008), pp. 846–852, http://digital.csic.es/bitstream/10261/12716/3/MayteRico_08.pdf

Robertson 2011.  “Mine Waste Management in the 21st Century Challenges & Solutions Beyond Incremental Changes” Andrew Macgregor Robertson, Key Note Address Tailings & Mine Waste, Vancouver B.C., 2011, http://www.infomine.com/library/publications/docs/Robertson2011c.pdf

Samis et. al. 2012.   Samis, M., Martinez, L., Davis, G. A., and Whyte, J. B., “Using Dynamic Discounted Cash Flow and Real Option Methods for Economic Analysis in NI 43-101 Technical Reports.” in the Valmin Seminar Series 2011-12 Proceedings, The Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, Publication Series No 3/2012, 149-160 accessed December 2014 at http://inside.mines.edu/~gdavis/Papers/ValMin.pdf

Schodde 2010.  Schodde, Richard “The Key Drivers Behind Resource Growth: An Analysis of the Copper Industry For the Last 100 Years”, Mine EX Consulting, 2010 MEMS Conference Minerals and Metals  Over the Long Term, Phoenix Arizona, March 3, 2010 .  http://www.slideshare.net/RichardSchodde/growth-factors-for-copper-schodde-sme-mems-march-2010-final

Stano 2011.  Stano, Maya “Rave Mine: A Regulatory & Fiscal Black Hole” Environmental Law Centre, Spring 2011 http://www.elc.uvic.ca/publications/documents/2010-02-03-RavenMine-RegulatoryandFiscalBlackhole_Stano-REVISEDJul2011.pdf

Troncosco et. al. 1993.  Troncosco, J.H. , Avendano, A. Vergara, A. “The Seismic Failure of Barahona Tailings Dam” Procedings: 3rd International Conference on Case Histories in Geotechnical Engineering, St. Louis, Missouri, June 1-4, 1993, Paper # 2.56, Accessed November 2014 at  https://mospace.umsystem.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10355/33917/P%201473-%20The%20Seismic%20Failure%20of%20Barahona%20Tailings%20Dam.pdf?sequence=1

USGS 2014a.  U.S. Geological Survey “Historical Statistics for Mineral and Material Commodities in the United States” Thomas D. Kelly and Grecia R. Matos, with major contributions provided by David A. Buckingham, Carl A. DiFrancesco, Kenneth E. Porter, and USGS mineral commodity specialists.    Data Series 140, April 2014. Accessed November 2014 at http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/historical-statistics/#copper

USGS 2014b.  U.S. Geological Survey “Iron Ore Statistics” Compiled by T.D. Kelly (retired), W.S. Kirk (retired), J.D. Jorgenson (retired), and C.A. Tuck. Data Series 140 2014   Accessed November 2014  at http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/historical-statistics/#copper

USGS 2014c.  U.S. Geological Survey “Zinc Statistics” April 2014 Compiled By DiFranceso, C.A.  Plachy, J., Gabby P.N., Bleiwas,D.I., Tolcin, A.C. Data Series 140 April 2014 http://minerals.usgs.gov/minerals/pubs/historical-statistics/#copper

Utah 2011.  State of Utah, “Groundwater Quality Discharge Permit UGW350011 Kennecott Utah Copper, Magna Utah, January 2011,  Accessed November 2014 at http://www.waterquality.utah.gov/GroundWater/gwpermits/kennecott-tailings/kennecott-tailingsSOB.pdf

Valero et. al. 2011.  Valero, Alicia, Valero, Antonio and Domiguez, Adriana “Trends of Energy Costs and Ore Grade in Global Mining”, Centre Of Research Energy Resources & Consumption ( CIRCE), Spain, 2011, Accessed November 2014 at http://teide.cps.unizar.es:8080/pub/publicir.nsf/codigospub/0751/$FILE/cp0751.pdf

Vick 1996.  Vick, Steven G. Failure of the Omai Storage Dam Geotechnical News, September 1996, Accessed November 2014 at https://ejatlas.s3.amazonaws.com/docs/omai-gold-mine-tailings-dam-guyana/Failure_of_the_Omai_Tailings_Dam.pdf

Vogt 2013.  Vogt, Craig, International Assessment of Marine & Riverine Disposal of MineTailings Final Report Adopted By The International Maritime Organization, London Convention.Protocol, October 18, 2013 http://www.craigvogt.com/links/Mine_Tailings_Marine_and_Riverine_Disposal.pdf

Wei et. al. 2012.  Wei, Zuan, Yin, Guangszhi, Wang J.G, Ling, Wan, Guangzhi, Li  “Design Construction and Management of Tailings Storage Facilities For Surface Disposal In China: Case Studies of Failures” Waste Management An Research Vol 31 p 106-112 Sage Publications October 11,2012 http://wmr.sagepub.com/content/31/1/106.full.pdf+html

WISE 2014.  World Information Service on Energy Uranium Project, Chronology of Major Tailings Dam Failures, from 1960, updated 16 Nov 2014, http://www.wise-uranium.org/mdaf.html

Witt & Schonhardt 2004.  Witt, K.J. Schonhardt M. Editors  Tailings Management Facilities, Risk &Reliability, TAILSAFE September 2004 http://www.tailsafe.bam.de/pdf-documents/TAILSAFE_Risk_and_Reliability.pdf

World Bank 2006.  World Bank Group, Oil Gas  Mining & Chemicals Group, Background Paper The Outlook For Metals Markets Prepared For G-20 Deputies Meeting Sydney 2006,  September 2006 http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTOGMC/Resources/outlook_for_metals_market.pdf

Posted in Center For Science in Citizen Participation, David Chambers, Lindsay Newland Bowker, TSF Failure Bibliography, TSF Failures Consequence | Leave a comment


Maine’s lobbyist/ extraction industry dictated mining rules were rejected by majority vote of the Maine legislature  last term.  In the interim new elections changed the party balance in the senate and reduced the majority in the house of its  legislature. Without authority, and contrary to the advice of Maine’s Attorney General, DEP simply re submitted the rejected rules with no changes.  This questionably legal deliberation is proceeding under LD146.
An alternative ‘”responsible mining” bill, LD750, has been advanced by physicist Ralph Chapman, a member of Maine’s legislature representing  a district which includes Maine’s only two prior mine developments both failed and one a superfund site.( The Callahan Mine, Brooksville and the Kerramerica Mine Blue Hill). The bill, as Rep. Chapman characterizes it, represents a paradigm shift from the obviously failed “punitive  model of deterrence via payment for damages to one that attempts to prevent outcomes which will likely  compromise environmental security. and/or pose challenges to environmental security that  cannot be managed by any known proven technology.
Here is Representative Chapmans  framing of his bill at a hearing before  Maine’s Committee of jurisdiction on Monday March 30 in Augusta.
IP – LD 750 Pt 1 of 3 http://youtu.be/Vxmcbldh8Ys 53m


The film was made by Eric A. Tuttle ,  one of several Maine videographers who have “Occupied Democracy” by filming public hearings sessions and posting publicly so Mainer’s unable to travel to Augusta can hear and evaluate for themselves.
At the end of his quiet professorial presentation, Rep. Chpaman in follow up questions with JSC ENR Committee members, had an an iconic exchange with Rep. John Martin that crystalizes the central issue: whether metallic mining is so valuable to the worlds economy that its pollution should be tolerated  for the “greater good” of having the metals or whether the world demand for metals should be met only through responsible  sustainable methods that insure environmental security now and in the future as closed facilities age and weather.
Representative Chapman summarizes his paradigm of repsonsible mining as founded on four common sense  principles:
(1) disallowing miners  and key consutant/sub contractors with bad track records
(2) allowing only those plans which can control or prevent contamination with known proven technology and
(3) continual acquisition of best knowledge and best guidance through  independent expert peer review ( independent of regulator and of mine proponent/operator) and
(4) a “life of mine” approach to oversight geared to  early recognition and response to contingences which fundamentally increase the level of environmental security risk.
Rep John Martin,  the original champion of Maine’s new mining statute challenged ” Aren’t you really just prohibiting mining, putting up barriers that make it impossible to mine in Maine?” ( paraphrased not transcribed)
Comfortaby, simply, non reactively, Representative Chapman replies: “Are you saying you don’t think there are responsible miners or that the mining industry is incapable of mining without pollution?  I don’t believe that.  I think the industry can attain responsible mining and I think we in Maine should frame our law to allow only that.  We should do it right if we are going to do it all” ( paraphrased)
The second part of LD750 proposes a moratorium on all mining permits until the statute can be realigned with its implementing rules,  In what may or may not have been an error in framing, the statute( Pl 2011 c.653)  provided a date certain (June 1, 2014) , for implementation of the statute but provided that its implementing rules required legislative approval before going into effect.  It stipulated that the old 1991 rules remain in effective until the new rules are legislatively approved.  This has left the old rules in effect without the law to which they refer in tact and with many areas of direct conflict between the statute and the old 1991 rules.
Bowker Associates wrote the following to Maine’s Committee of Jursidiction (JSC ENR) on the conflict in legal opinion as between DEP & Mining Lobby advocates on behalf of JD Irving and a lawyer retained by public advocate Charles Fitzgerald.to advise JSC ENR on interpretation of the statute..
Dear Members of the Joint Standing Committee on Environment and Natural Resources:
Further to yesterdays hearing on LD750, there is an obvious legal discrepancy between DEP/Irving Lobbyist interpretation of what applies under the status quo ( 1991 rules with new statute already law  as of June 1,2014) and what was opined to you by  Clifford Ruprecht, Esq. counsel to Charles Fitzgerald last term.
This alone calls for a change of planned course to insure once again that the JSC ENR seeks a clear and  legally binding alignment of the mining statute with its implementing rules as proposed in  LD750.  With this much legal uncertainty  on what would fundamentally govern any mining permit advanced, any consideration of continuing the status quo ( old rules new statute) is not an option in the public interest.
JSC ENR has no choice but to either provide a legislative cure as (proposed by LD750) or to suspend all work sessions and further consideration of the re submitted previously rejected rules until the Attorney General has ruled on this matter in a way that firmly binds DEP to a specific interpretation of law.
This letter from Portland Law Firm Roach, Ruprecht, Sanchez and Bischoff initiated by Bowker Associates(1)  opines that interpretation of the statute per normal rules of construction means the 1991 rules in their entirety ( not the mining statute that went effect June 1) now  governs any permit application. (ie any new permits would have to rely still on the pre-June1 revisions to Maine’s mining Law on which the 1991 rules rely). In the cpurse of public heraings  on March 30, 2015, Representative Duchesne wisely pointed to the circularity that would otherwise apply if this were not the case.
If Portland Attorneys are correct, this trumps Governor Le Page’s veto of proposed law in the  126th Session which sought this clear statutory alignment between the mining statute and its implementing regulations.  That is, if Mr. Ruprecht is correct,  we already have  the pre -mining statute status legally. If Mr. Ruprechts interpretation is correct that PL 2011 c.53 ( Ld 1853) is not “self implementing”  the slice and dice of the Maine’s environmental law that went into effect on June 1 cannot actually be applied to the processing and oversight of any permit.  Surely our own Attorney General can and should resolve this.  If the Ruprecht  letter is correct then we in effect already have a moratorium on implementation of PL 2011 C.653.
But given First Deputy Commissioner Heather Parents strong and repeated different interpretation, affirmed at the end by Irving lobbyist Tom Doyle of Pierce Atwood there is still uncertainty if nothing in  law actually binds DEP to the Ruprecht interpretation or even the Attorney General’s concurrence with it.
 I know you had no stenographer at yesterdays hearings but we have the video from which a transcript of exactly what both Ms. Parent & Mr.Doyle said .  My very clear memory ( this has been a key Bowker Associates issue from the outset so I pay very close attention to all that is said and written on this point) is that Ms. Parent more than once said that presently in processing a permit DEP would go by the new mining statute where there is a conflict.  Irving lobbyist Tom  Doyle  who had not planned to testify ( he said) thought it important enough  to affirm the same as Ms. Parent when he got up to  speak at the end of the hearing.  This is an untenable difference of opinion  with Maine’s environmental security and purse strings so highly at stake.
 Co-Cairs, Weslh & Savilelo , and members Harlow & Chipman know and hopefully have already shared with other committee members, how and why JSC ENR wisely decided last session not withstanding this  letter to call for the “moratorium” LD750 advcates now. ( That was also Bowker Associates advocacy)
It is on the basis of this letter that NRCM, Conservation Law  and other signatories to a 2nd  letter from the same law firm  have not, until the most recent hearing on March 30, called for the moratorium LD750 advocates ( by way of crystal clear clarification of intent).
LD750 is a certain path to legal clarity that is unambiguously binding on DEP.This alone clearly establishes that statute is the only way to resolve  this issue and avoid the chaos that will otherwise ensue.
JSCENR cannot and should not take any further action on LD146 until this issue is resolved in a way that is legally binding on DEP and all mining proponents in simple clear unambiguous language.
Just the existence of this conflict in interpretation is reason to adopt the the path Rep Chapmans bill LD750 urges.  To do otherwise puts Maine’s environmental security and Maine taxpayers at extraordinary and inexcusable risk.
I have copied other parties of interest to this further comment on LD750 includig Maine press who have covered mining and all official “interested parties”
Lindsay Newland Bowker, CPCU, ARM Environmental Risk Manager
Bowker Associates
Science & Research In The Public Interest
15 Cove Meadow Rd.
Stonington, Maine 04681

(1) Bowker Associates was pursuing a legal opinion of Mr. Roach of whether the BEP vote approving the rule was legal as substantive additions had been made without the MAPA required 10 day notice and also on whether a failure to reject the rules would trigger “the poison pill” and automatically make the rules legal.  Mr.Fitzgerald had agreed to fund that engagement of Roach under Bowker Associates direction and control but after conferring with NRCM and Conservation Law, Mr. Fitzgerald elected to go this route. Unfortunately there was never an official finding as to whether Mr. Roaches opinion is correct and legally binding on DEP and mining proponents.  ​

Lindsay Newland Bowker, CPCU, ARM Environmental Risk Manager
Bowker Associates
Science & Research In The Public Interest
15 Cove Meadow Rd.
Stonington, Maine 04681

Here are two additional portins of the entire hearing on LD75 on Monday March 30 in Augusta.

IP – LD 750 Pt 2 of 3 http://youtu.be/xbV_p6hFr28 1h21m
IP – LD 750 Pt 3 of 3 http://youtu.be/IgfSrnJWfbY 1h16
Posted in Bald Mountain Aroostook Maine, Bowker Associates Science & Research In The Public Interest, JD Irving, John Martin Maine Legisilature, LD146127th Maine Legislature, LD1750 Maine 126th Legislature, Lindsay Newland Bowker, Maine Mining Law, Maine Mining Rules, Mining Risk Management, Ralph Chapman, Responsible Mining | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From The Community Living With The Aftermath of the Mt. Polley Tailings Failure Catastrophe

Suffering ,Imperfections And Life’s Realities

By Lola Lawton

My children swam in a tailing pond for ten years before I knew the quarry was an abandoned mine tailing pond Deloro Ontario grossly contaminated with arsenic and arsenic compounds, refining slag laboratory wastes , lead, cobalt, nickel and copper, mercury and other metals. Gamma radiation hot spots were also discovered. The Ministry of Environment had taken responsibility for the abandoned mine site thirty years ago from 1988 until 1999. As a visitor to the community I had no knowledge. I asked a resident, ‘why is the water at the swimming hole that color?’ She said, “Because It is a spring fed pool.’”

Lola Lawton Lola lives in Ontraio but because of her experience  with the swimming hole that was a tailings pond felt a great  empathy with the community around Mt. Polley  and has been active with others in trying to understand what it all means for the community going forward. Her film is an expression of her personal grief and  an eloquent testament to the confusion and fear of a community living with the uncertainty of one of the greatest mine catastrophes in recorded history https://youtu.be/I-z3kbDDR1g) Once upon A Time video tribute Mount Polley Mine Disaster Lola Lawton is a parent teacher for kinetic learners. She advocates for the fair and equal treatment of all peoples, to have access to clean water, fertile soil and fresh air. She writes children’s literature and poems and has created The World’s largest Four Directional Dream Catcher. She is passionate about First Nations and Inuit, Metis childhood nutrition.

Posted in Imperial Metals, Mt. Polley Tailings Dam Failure Impacts | Tagged , , | Leave a comment


To whom it may concern,

The agreement that the Environment and Natural Resources Committee chairs, Senator Tom Saviello and Representative Joan Welsh, made with me that my mining bill (LD750) would have a public hearing prior to the work session on the re-submitted rejected rules from last term (LD146) has been broken: LD750 has not yet been scheduled for a public hearing (though it is in the hands of the Committee), and LD146 has a scheduled work session this Thursday, March 19, at 2:30pm.

Representative Ralph Chapman

March 15, 2015

That was not just a promise made to you Ralph, it was a promise  made to “we the people”​.
Committee action on LD146, though,  requires exactly what LD750 is aiming at.
The law, MAPA 257,  requires that the JSC ENR speak specifically and clearly to how the re submitted rules align with legislative intent.
The Attorney General has advised JSC ENR of their duty in this regard.  They cannot avoid speaking to whether intent was
(1) that the same standards of environmental protection in site of development  and natural resources protection law were expected to apply in the mining irules in a way that better acknolwdged the ultra high risk and complexisties of mining or
(2) whetherthe intent was, as mining interest lobbyists intended,   to remove the insurmountable barrier these standards pose to maine’s known metal depsoits because of the high arsenic high sulfide geochemistry of these deposits and their proximity to protected surface waters.
It’s as simple as that.
That is the only clarification needed, really, and all else falls into place with perfect clarity.
This drifting off into this one’s list of 10 specific changes and that one’s additional 5 is just smoke and mirrors diverting everyone’s attention from this one core confusion.
To proceed on the basis that this one’s list or that one’s will “fix the rules” in a way that prevents the issuance of permits for mine plans and mine operators that will as, Dr. Moran has warned, GUARANTEEE non remediable long term ongoing breaches of environmental security at the publics sole expense is a breach of public duty to this generation and to future generations.
JSC/ENR has breached its public duty  three tmes  already:
(1) once in not recognizing immediately that they did not possess the technical, scientific and legal knowledge to write  mining law in a hurried last minute lobbyist paid initiative ( or at all); the legal authority to write law is not the same as the moral and ethical obligation to write law that is wise, well informed and sound with respect to the public interest.
(2) once on LD1302 a foolishly misinformed statutory fix ( instead of repealing PL 2011 c.653 and starting over);
(3) and last session in not meeting its duty under law to clarify whether or not legislative intent is for mining to be subject to the same standards and policy as govern site of development and natural resouces protection law t.
We can’t assume, and I have no knowledge that, this planning  session announced with no public notice, will be more of the same pressing along the same disastrous course.  It does not bode well, I’d agree. (  The session this Thursday is a planning session not a work session)
I still see room and opportunity for a final and workable course correction on mining but it cannot happen unless this JSC ENR finally says with perfect clarity and in plain English whether it intends that mining be held to lower standards of law viz site of develoment and natural resources protection law or whether its intent was to recognize the unique complexities and very high risks of minng  in a mining specific rule to these same standards.
We can still do that and we have to hope that JSC ENR finally gets that.
I have copied all 256 interestedparties and all of Maine’s journalists who have covered mining on this email.
Whatever happens, the work you, Christoper Johnnson, Ben Chipman , Geoff Gratwock and before you James Boyle have done to elevate and reframe the discussion of mining policy away from the false information of modern technology  and modern law making mining safe  viz environmental security and that mining means jobs toward the geochemical realities of sulfide mining in general and our utra high risk deposits in particular.  You are on my wall of heroes and your work has made a huge difference in the public conversation on mining.  That was the story of the 2/25 hearings.  So many speaking in heir own authentic voices beyond petitions and canned  agendas.
The law is always slow to come to terms with realties like this and often makes  fatal mistakes in both directions, too much and too little effective envionmntal security. What you all have accomplished has definitely changed public expectations and public understanding and will therefore eventually be law.
I wasn’t at the hearing but I understand a loud cheer went up wen Chris Johnson gave his eloquent testimony.  It is clear that is what the public demand of all its law makers.
UPDATE 1843 EST 3/17  There will be a public hearing on Rep Chapmans bill , LD750on the 30th .  There will be no work sessions on any other mining bill before that.  The planning session this Thursday may be attended any one.  This was co chair Welsh’s promise and she has delivered/  Thank you Co-Chair Welsh.  Thank you!!!!
UPDATE 03/27/15  It seems very clear the JSC ENR has no intention of clarifying policy as the law requires and  have pre decided an ought not to pass on Chapmans bill and its fundamental call to policy clarifications.
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Maybe JD Irving Should Have Spent $1 million Evaluating the Financial Viability of Bald Mountain Instead Of Lobbying the Maine Legislature for Sanction To Pollute Groundwater

Complex CU-Deposit Financial feasibility:Arsenic Limits In Concentrates:Bald Mountain

Interesting article on attainability of international concentrate standards on arsenic.  Another perhaps insurmountable challenge,  and certainly a great limitation on possibilities for, Maine’s Bald Mountain where arsenic levels present problems without solutions in other areas as well eg. tailings deposition & mine water management.
More and more mines are trading in concentrates ( most of chile’s market is in concentrates) which must meet certain standards in % of metals concentrate and absence of other impurities to be saleable .
Here is an example of  the penalties ( lost value) for various levels above established global standards.
Arsenic (As) 0.10% $ 5.00/0.1 % ( up to 0.5 % As) $ 11.00/ 0.1 % ( >0.5 % As)

Bismuth (Bi) 200 ppm $ 4.00/ 100 ppm (up to 1200 ppm Bi) $ 6.00/ 100 ppm ( >1200 ppm Bi)

Selenium (Se) 0.05% $ 5.00/0.01 % Se Antimony (Sb) 0.10% $ 4.00/0.1 % Sb

Cadmium (Cd) 200 ppm $ 4.00/100 ppm Cd Lead (Pb) 1% $2.75/0.5 % Pb

1/ Dry Metric Tons

( the first number is the standard(e.g. o.10% for arsenic, then the penalties per metric ton for two ranges of exceedances e.g $5.00 per metric ton for every .1% above ,o.10% up to  o,5% and $11/ton  per .1% above.5%.  With average costs per ton to produce at $20 for copper these penalties are significant.


Coupled with the general outlook for copper and the expected emphasis away from de novo mining toward expansion mining of existing operating mines and re-mining of high-grade wastes at closed and operating mines, the JD Irving owned Bald Mountain in Aroostook County Maine faces serious financial viability problems in relation to other deposits.  It certainly is not well positioned ( or geochemically resourced) to attract quality investors or quality miners in the forseeable future even under the super relaxed environmental security standards sought by present mining interests in Maine.
The $1 million+ JD Irving has spent with Jim Mitchell and Tom Doyle on lobbying for relaxed environmental security standards would have been better spent hiring mining economists  and other experts to understand the deposit  itself and its possible financial and environmental viability viz world copper markets and what drives them.
 $1 million in lobbying the Maine legislature  is a lot of money for a deposit that is most likely non competitive in the present global climate and market standards for copper.
Just sayin’
If UMaine or DEP or Irving et al are interested in the actual potential financial viability of Bald Mountain, I have a long list of brilliantly well qualified mining economists I can refer them to.  $1 million spent talking to these guys would go much further and provide better results  than lobbying our legislature for the privilege of polluting groundwater under mining areas feeding multiple pristine watersheds.
Wondering whether  George Kendrick of Stantec who has been part of he lobbying tab for JD IRVING encouraged them in this direction and if not, why not?
If Irving et al had been looking first to financial viability in todays global marketplace instead of keeping our legislature and some 200+ of us actively engaged NGO’s and citizens chasing our tails over the agenda they chose instead, maybe by now we’d have the most remarkable and well thought out legal framework  for metallic mining in the world.
Just sayin’
March 8,2015 at Cove Meadow
Lindsay Newland Bowker, CPCU, ARM Environmental Risk Manager
Bowker Associates
Science & Research In The Public Interest
15 Cove Meadow Rd.
Stonington, Maine 04681
Posted in Aroostook Resources Ltd., Bald Mountain, CU-Arsenic Standards For Concentrates, George Kendrick, global copper market outlook, JD Irving, Mining Economics, Mining Financial Feasibility, Mining Risk Management, Pierce Atwood, Stantec, Tom Doyle | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment