FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 14, 2016 1333 EST Contact email@example.com 207 367 5145
RISK OF FAILURE ASSESSMENT OF MAINE MINING STATUTE AND DRAFT IMPLEMENTING RULES
Lindsay Newland Bowker, CPCU ARM, Environmental Risk Manager
Risk of Catastrophic Failure analysis of Maine’s Mining Statute ( Pl 2011 c.653) and its now under review draft rule concludes that Maine’s statute itself is a potential root cause of such failure as has been the case in many of history’s most dramatic and costly failures including Mt Polley and Samarco, both modern mines and both among in history’s top 10 in terms of consequence and scale of failure. Maine’s statute scored 43 out of a maximum “worst case” score of 50 and is classified as “High Risk”, against 5 key criteria focused on most commonly found root causes of catastrophic failure.
Although the poorly framed, poorly informed Maine statute is among the worst among post 1990 new laws and overhauls it nevertheless contained a few very common mandates including “technical and financial capacity of the applicant” and a mandate for the use of best proven technology . Otherwise it is vague on mandates on policy, but with no changes in statute at all it would be possible to write a rule substantially reducing risk of catastrophic failure. This risk assessment analysis concludes that a score of 16 out of a possible best case score of 10 can be attained within the existing statute despite its many flaws, gaps, internal inconsistencies and contradictions through wiser better informed rules alone. .
The statute’s implementing rule drafted by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and accepted for review by Maine’s unique Citizen Panel (Board of Environmental Protection,(BEP)) scored lower than the statute itself at 44 out of a “worst case” score of 50 because it constructively nullified the key mandates of the statute by not developing them. Its low score was otherwise attributable to dropping better and more professional language in the 1991 draft rule that is not in any conflict with statute and not including any useable language that would be effective in preventing or reducing the risk of catastrophic non remediable failure.
Michigans new rule for non ferrous metals, well known to Maine’s DEP and the legislative committee of jurisdiction ( JSCENR) and developed specifically for sulphides, the kind of high risk metallic mineralization Maine has, contains provisions addressing may of the root causes of catastrophic failure scores 32 out of a worst case score of 50.
In Maines latest draft rules, that difference between what is possible and its best possible outcome score of 16 and the score of 44 is a void in which the seeds of catastrophic failure can germinate, incubate and mature to a manmade catastrophic failure. Of the 33 million tons of metallically mineralized rock at the state’s largest metallic deposit, Bald Mountain, 22 million tonnes will become toxic high arsenic tailings with high ARD potential and another 11 million tonnes of wastes posing high level environmental security risks so there is significant potential for a man made catastrophic failure at Bald Mountain , should any mining at all ever become economically viable, under the present statute as “risk elevated” by DEP’s draft rule.
A tailings facility failure would travel many kilometers not thousands of feet and result in a complete non remediabe loss of downstream lands ponds, streams and brooks and all terrestal and marine habitat .Tailings can never become soils capable of supporting and sustaining any kind of plant life long term as a recent evaluation of the Los Frailles failure in Spain has shown . At a previously undocumented 1937 failure in Mexico which we discovered and have added to our global failures database 1906-2016, to this day no sustained growth has occurred on the lands despoiled by the tailings flow 80 years ago.
Michigan’s statutes, indeed most presently governing statutes world wide including New Mexico’s relatively new statute would score not much better than Maine’s. Improvements in the legal framework for mining have come mainly through rules. West Australia for instance working form a very primitive pre modern legal framework has developed one of the wisest and most comprehensive rules in the world.
The full report will be submitted as Bowker Associates testimony on the draft rule and published as a case study further developing and now applying our work with eminent Geophysicist on the relationship between mining economics environmental risk and public liability.