By Judith Lavoie.
Canada has more mine tailings spills than most other countries in the world, according to a report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which urges governments and the mining industry to improve safety, accountability and oversight. During the last decade there have been seven known mine tailings spills in Canada, only one less than reported in China, which tops the list, says the report. The UNEP assessment â€œMine Tailings Storage: Safety Is No Accidentâ€ looks at 40 tailings accidents, including the 2014 Mount Polley disaster that saw 24 million cubic metres of sludge and mine waste flooding into nearby waterways. It is estimated that, since 2008, mining waste failures have killed more than 340 people, damaged hundreds of kilometres of waterways, affected drinking water sources, wiped out fish populations, destroyed heritage sites and monuments and jeopardized the livelihoods of many communities. And the documented disasters may not tell the whole story as there is no global database of mine sites and tailings storage facilities – something the report calls for.