Sample Geology Presentation Paper on Mount Polley Tailings Pond Collapse – Assignment Help

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Mount Polley Tailings

The Mount Polley tailings pond collapse is a disaster that many considered to be an environmental disaster. The views come from mine safety experts and mainstream media bodies through their journal articles. This disaster is the breach of the imperial metals-owned mount polley copper and gold mine tailings pond which consequently released its waters, slurry, and mining waste into the surrounding water ways (Cullen & Reimer, 2017). Some of the water ways affected include: the Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek, Quesnel Lake, and Cariboo River. The spilled water and the rest of the materials flooded Polley Lake which in turn flowed into the Hezeltine Creek which is connected to the nearby Quesnel Lake and Cariboo River (Cullen, & Reimer, 2017). After a few days, the tailings pond was emptied off the process water which sits on top of the settled solids. Moreover, the contaminated hose spilled along with trees, sludge and trash. Hazeltine Creek banks swelled and the water flowed into Polly Lake as well as Quesnel Lake.  Consequently, polley lake capacity rose by 4.9 ft while the Hazeltine Creek widened from a width of 6.6 ft to 160 ft (Cullen & Reimer, 2017).

Many discussions and research were done in an attempt to reveal the causes of this disaster. Initially, the British Columbia insisted that the dam failure was not an environmental disaster. Other investigations were done and different conclusions were made by the researchers. The president and CEO of the mining association of Canada assured that the industry operated without any illegal incident. He added that the failure of the tailings is unacceptable (Barlow, 2016). In addition, a panel formed to investigate the construction of the dam reported (in agreement with the construction company’s investigation) that the construction of the tailings storage facility was always in compliance with the design by the engineers’ record (Barlow, 2016). This meant that the design of the dam had nothing to do with its failure. However, other panels concluded otherwise.

 An independent government-ordered panel of experts concluded that the cause of the disaster came about as a result of the dam was inadequately designed (Barlow, 2016). One member of the panel, a geological engineer, compared the design of the dam with the act of loading a gun and pulling the trigger. This mount Polley independence expert engineering investigation and review panel delivered a report on its investigation into the cause of the failure of the tailings storage facility. They concluded that the breach was as a result of a failure in the foundation of the wall. The report said that the design of the dam did not really consider the complexity of the sub-glacial and pre-glacial geological environment associated with the perimeter (Barlow, 2016). In addition, the report suggested that that failure was also triggered by construction of the downstream rock fill zone at a steep slope (Barlow, 2016). This means that if the downstream slope was flattened, then, the failure would be avoided. In the report, the panel concluded that there was no evidence that the failure was due to human intervention or overtopping of the perimeter embankments and that piping and cracking was not the cause of the breach.

Not everything about the disaster in central British Columbia is out in the light. However, a number of lessons can be learnt from this disaster. First, there seems to be an insufficiency in planning pollution prevention strategies and emergency response systems in many countries (Brebbia, 2015). Enough is not being done about the environmental pollution. When serious problems crop up very little and slow or nothing at all is done about it. We therefore find that many lives get affected and irreversible consequences results from such incidences. Due to this, there is need for more state of the art monitoring of all industrial sites especially those which can cause so much destruction (Brebbia, 2015). These monitors will serve as an early warning to people so as measures can be taken in preventing such a disaster to ever occur.

From this disaster, we learn that accident prevention is better than disaster recovery strategies (Brebbia, 2015). The disaster in Cariboo was not prevented; it therefore caused water pollution which led scarcity for water where people lacked enough drinking water. The disaster also came with cost problems. It used large amounts of money and materials to be constructed. In addition, there need be better preparedness by requiring the owners of the industrial sites to prepare emergency plans for a wider range of potential accidents. They should share these plans with local, provincial and federal authorities (Brebbia, 2015). This will help the authorities to stay in the know hence during accidents occurrence speedy interventions can limit and contain the loss and damage caused.

Everybody should be part and parcel of the presentation plan. This is because (whether directly or indirectly) such a disaster affects everyone. For instance, the disaster of Mount Polley tailings pond affected the surrounding communities directly. Most of the people had to vacate their settlement areas due to the flooding caused by the spill (Cullen & Reimer, 2017). In addition, the mining waste products polluted the water in several water bodies. This water was previously used by the residents around these areas. Furthermore, those who depended on the functions of the dam were also affected indirectly (Brebbia, 2015). The mining of copper and gold stopped for a while affecting the economy of that region and the industries that highly depended on goals and copper. It is therefore clear that the disasters that occur near or far away affect many people even those who do not realize it.


Barlow, M. (2016). Boiling point: Government neglect, corporate abuse, and Canada’s water crisis.

Cullen, W. R., & Reimer, K. J. (2017). Arsenic is everywhere: Cause for concern?. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry.

Management of natural resources, sustainable development and ecological. (2015). Place of publication not identified: Wit Press.

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