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The tailings pond collapse at Mount Polley gold and copper mine last August spilled 10 million cubic metres of contaminated water into the waterways below.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

The British Columbia government did not violate its duty to inform the public before a tailings-pond breach at a gold and copper mine, says the province's privacy commissioner.

Elizabeth Denham said information that the province had about the Mount Polley mine before the disaster last summer was not urgent enough to require a public safety warning under the province's freedom of information and privacy laws.

"I find that government did not have information about the Mount Polley mine tailings pond dam that was clearly in the public interest, such that it should have been disclosed," Denham said in a report released Thursday.

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Denham said she reviewed records dating from January 2009 to August 2014 and did not find anything indicating major risks at the central B.C. mine.

The breach last August caused 24 million cubic metres of silt and water to gush into nearby lakes and rivers.

Denham said she uncovered two incidents involving a tension crack and water rising above permitted tailings-pond levels, but they did not pose a significant-enough risk.

But Denham's report, which examined public disclosure by public bodies, goes beyond Mount Polley and recommends providing the public with more information about possible risks rather than waiting for situations of urgency or compelling need.

"I conclude that (the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) should not be interpreted to require an element of temporal urgency in order to require the disclosure of information that is clearly in the public interest," she said.

Last January, an independent government-ordered report concluded the breach was caused by poor dam design, which didn't account for drainage and erosion failures associated with glacial till beneath the pond.

Mines Minister Bill Bennett said a decision on reopening the Mount Polley mine is expected this month.

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