More than $800,000 was spent on emergency work to stabilize the tailing pond at the HB Mine site near Salmo last month.
The site was under a state of emergency from July 3 to 25, after heavy rains caused a sinkhole to form on the underwater wall of the earthen dam, causing some sloughing and seepage along the slope. High capacity pumps were brought in to reduce the water level behind the dam while repair wok got underway.
Regional District of Central Kootenay, owners the HB Mine property, co-ordinated the emergency response, but the bill will be covered by the province.
Jim Gustafson, RDCK chief administrative officer, said the same is true for all the environmental disasters that resulted in states of emergency this summer.
“Whether it’s the minor slide in Thrums, the flooding around Kootenay Lake, the massive landslide in Johnson’s Landing — it all follows the same process,” he explained. “Once a state of emergency is declared, we plan the mitigation in conjunction with the province … and they approve what sounds reasonable.”
At the HB Mine site, the bulk of the emergency funds were spent on reconstruction of the failed part of the dam, as well as paying someone to monitor the dam 24/7 for three weeks, and to keep two flaggers on standby near the highway below, so they could immediately stop traffic if the structure did fail.
With the state of emergency lifted, the burden of paying for ongoing work at the dam has shifted back to the RDCK. Gustafson said there is still periodic pumping and monitoring needed at the site. As well, he expects consultants will be needed to help the RDCK plan for the future of the site, which may include the decommissioning of the dam.
“The next phase is to do an assessment of the site and make a determination of how to manage area behind the dam, with or without water and how to manage tailings and all other impacts associated with that site,” he said.
The HB mine property was purchased by the regional district as part of its central landfill area in 1998