On August 4, Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley gold and copper mine tailings pond dam in the Cariboo region breached, spilling more than 10 million cubic metres of heavy metal-laden toxic sludge (enough to fill 4,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools) into pristine lakes, streams, and rivers.
The massive spill has destroyed Hazeltine Creek and contaminated Polley and Quesnel Lakes. It has spread through the Caribou, Quesnel and likely the Fraser river systems. The disaster could not possibly come at a worse time as salmon runs are making their way to their spawning grounds.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, said, “Like the Exxon Valdez, Mount Polley will be synonymous with one of the most disastrous environmental events in British Columbia. The frightening fact is both environmental disasters could have been prevented if there was vigorous government oversight by an effectively resourced agency bound by robust legislative and regulatory environmental safeguards.”
In the face of this disaster, how has government and industry responded? By trying to cover up the disaster rather than cleaning it up! A cleanup does not mean making Quesnel Lake a new depository for tailings from the spill.
Have your voice heard! Send a message to the B.C. government and Imperial Metals to clean it up, not cover it up.
Following minimal testing, the government rescinded the drinking water ban, saying that local waters are safe to consume, despite the fact the spilled tailings contained a number of toxic substances that have devastating health impacts on humans and wildlife, including mercury and arsenic.
Our water at risk
Mining companies like Imperial Metals are putting entire water systems and communities at risk. The B.C. government issued five warnings to Imperial Metals to deal with its tailings pond before the breach, all of which the company ignored and the government did not enforce.
The Mount Polley disaster is a dire warning for communities with open pit mines. The containment of toxic tailings – which are central to these mining projects – is neither safe nor secure. When it comes to tailings spills and leaks, it is not a matter of if they will happen, but when.
The B.C. government is turning a blind eye and neglecting its responsibilities to properly regulate and enforce the mining industry at great cost to British Columbians and to our environment.
You can take action in the face of crisis. Send a letter to Premier Christy Clark and demand that Imperial Metals be held accountable for its actions and that the government take the necessary steps to ensure that future mining disasters do not occur. We need a cleanup, not a cover up!