Im­pe­rial drops case against Mount Polley en­gi­neers

Im­pe­rial Met­als Corp. has ended the law­suit that it was pur­su­ing against the en­gi­neers who worked on the tail­ings op­er­a­tion at its Mount Polley mine. The com­pany had ac­cused them of neg­li­gence in a 2014 dam fail­ure.

Stockwatch Daily - - FRONT PAGE - By Mike Caswell

IM­PE­RIAL MET­ALS Corp. has qui­etly dropped the law­suit that it filed in the Supreme Court of Bri­tish Columbia against two en­gi­neer­ing firms over a tail­ings spill at its Mount Polley mine in 2014. The com­pany had claimed that the firms were neg­li­gent in the spill. For their part, the en­gi­neers had de­nied any wrong­do­ing. The end of the law­suit is con­tained in a con­sent or­der filed at the Van­cou­ver court­house on Dec. 17, 2018. The or­der sim­ply states that the case is dis­missed, with each side to pay its own le­gal fees. Lawyers for Im­pe­rial Met­als and the other par­ties signed the or­der.

With the end of the law­suit there will, of course, be no de­ter­mi­na­tion of which party was re­spon­si­ble for the widely pub­li­cized spill, at least in court. A pro­fes­sional or­ga­ni­za­tion, En­gi­neers and Geo­sci­en­tists Bri­tish Columbia, is plan­ning dis­ci­plinary pro­ceed­ings against three en­gi­neers who worked on the project. The reg­u­la­tory body says that the three (Stephen Rice, Laura Fidel and Todd Martin) demon­strated “un­pro­fes­sional con­duct.” That mat­ter has yet to go to a hear­ing. There was also an in­de­pen­dent re­view panel that re­leased a re­port into the spill in 2015, but its find­ings were far from de­fin­i­tive. The re­port did not blame any­body in par­tic­u­lar, de­ter­min­ing that the fail­ure was most likely a re­sult of de­sign prob­lems.

The end of the law­suit comes over four years af­ter the Aug. 4, 2014, fail­ure of the tail­ings dam at Mount Polley, an open pit gold-cop­per mine near Wil­liams Lake, B.C. On that day, earth below a sec­tion of the dam’s perime­ter slipped. This led to an em­bank­ment col­laps­ing, and a sub­se­quent re­lease of tail­ings. As a re­sult of the fail­ure, the mine was shut down for just over a year.

In its sub­se­quent law­suit, dated July 4, 2016, Im­pe­rial said that two en­gi­neer­ing firms, Knight Piesold Ltd. and AMEC Earth & En­vi­ron­men­tal, were re­spon­si­ble for the fail­ure. Knight Piesold had de­signed the dam in the 1990s and had con­firmed in many sub­se­quent re­ports that it was safe, the suit stated. Mean­while, AMEC had con­ducted in­de­pen­dent tests of the dam. It had ex­pressed some reser­va­tions about the foun­da­tion, but had ul­ti­mately de­ter­mined that the dam was safe, ac­cord­ing to the suit.

The firms con­tin­ued to re­port the dam as fine de­spite some con­cern that AMEC had with the sta­bil­ity of a “glacio­la­cus­trine foun­da­tion” in 2006. It ques­tioned whether the foun­da­tion could be in a brit­tle con­di­tion, ac­cord­ing to the suit. Not­with­stand­ing those con­cerns, nei­ther firm warned of de­sign er­rors with the damn, Im­pe­rial said.

The suit had sought dam­ages for neg­li­gence, mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion and breach of con­tract. It also had sought orders that would have in­dem­ni­fied Im­pe­rial Met­als from any third party claims. Van­cou­ver lawyer Mark An­drews of Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP rep­re­sented Im­pe­rial.

For their part, the en­gi­neer­ing firms de­nied any wrong­do­ing. In a re­sponse filed on Sept. 23, 2016, Knight Piesold said that it had warned Im­pe­rial more than once about the con­di­tion of the dam. It said that its ad­vice went un­heeded af­ter Im­pe­rial hired an­other en­gi­neer, AMEC, in early 2011. Sub­se­quent changes to the dam, which in­cluded rais­ing its height and steep­en­ing its slope, caused or con­trib­uted to the ul­ti­mate fail­ure, Knight Piesold said. Knight Piesold’s suc­ces­sor, AMEC, blamed Im­pe­rial for the fail­ure. In a re­sponse filed on Sept. 23, 2016, it said that Im­pe­rial dis­charged far more wa­ter into the Mount Polley tail­ings pond than the pond was meant to hold. AMEC claimed that it had specif­i­cally warned Im­pe­rial about the is­sue 10 months be­fore the dam failed.

The govern­ment also found it­self dragged into the law­suit, with AMEC claim­ing in a third party notice that pro­vin­cial in­spec­tors should have forced Im­pe­rial to cor­rect prob­lems with the dam. Ac­cord­ing to AMEC, mine op­er­a­tors should have been di­rected to start low­er­ing the level of the tail­ings pond af­ter an “over­top­ping event” (in which wa­ter spilled over the dam) that oc­curred three months be­fore the fail­ure. The over­top­ping was a dan­ger­ous oc­cur­rence, but au­thor­i­ties did not force any im­me­di­ate cor­rec­tive mea­sures, AMEC said.

Van­cou­ver lawyer Ni­cholas Hughes of McCarthy Te­trault rep­re­sented AMEC, while Karen Martin of Den­tons rep­re­sented Knight Piesold.

For Im­pe­rial, the end of the law­suit comes with the com­pany hav­ing sus­pended min­ing at Mount Polley. The com­pany cited poor cop­per prices in an­nounc­ing the sus­pen­sion. Work will con­tinue on milling low-grade stock­piles un­til May, 2019. The stock closed at $1.77 Thursday, down six cents.

James Brian Kynoch, Pierre Bruno Lebel, Larry Ge­orge J Moeller, Theodore Wil­liam Mu­raro, Janine North, James Pa­trick Veitch, Ed­ward Al­fred Yurkowski

(III) Shares: 120,782,585

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.