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Council of Canadians opposes the reopening of the Mount Polley mine

Tomorrow is a day of action to stop the Mount Polley mine from reopening.

On August 4, 2014, the dam of the tailings pond from Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley gold and copper mine near Likely, British Columbia breached, releasing 10 billion litres of contaminated water and 4.5 million cubic metres of metals-laden fine sand into Hazeltine Creek, Polley Lake and Quesnel Lake. Likely is about 600 kilometres northeast of Vancouver. According to a filing with Environment Canada in 2013, 326 tonnes of nickel, 400 tonnes of arsenic, 177 tonnes of lead and 18,400 tonnes of copper and its compounds had been dumped into the tailings pond.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip has stated, “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.”

A Facebook event page states, “On April 1st, the province of British Columbia accepted the application to reopen Imperial Metals Mount Polley mine, leaving one month for the public to respond. This company and mine is responsible for dumping 14.5 million cubic metres of mining wastes into pristine waterways, the Fraser River watershed (the second largest salmon spawning grounds in the world) and devastating the unceded Territory of the Secwepemc Peoples and their way of life.” Another Facebook event page notes, “Canada has a mining agenda that is destroying our beautiful lands. The province of BC and its Ministry of Energy and Minister, Ministry of Environment and Imperial Metals have not shown that they can handle this disaster properly, with respect to the environment, the public and the Indigenous Peoples.”

Today, the Victoria Times Colonist reports, “Imperial Metals has filed an application to partly restart the mine by discharging tailings into a nearby open pit”, but that “water test results following the Mount Polley mine dam failure eight months ago have continued to show periodic elevated levels of metals.”

The article specifies, “For example, on Jan. 27, the total aluminum reading in Quesnel Lake at the outlet of Hazeltine Creek — the path the mine waste flowed to reach the lake — was nearly 15 times the Canadian drinking water guideline. Tests showed that levels of iron were six times above Canadian drinking water guidelines and manganese was twice the guideline. Aluminum levels were also exceeded in the month of January at the Quesnel River bridge at Likely and farther downstream at the Gravelle Ferry Bridge. …The latest results from February and March show government guidelines were exceeded for copper for aquatic life on the Quesnel River near the town of Likely, downstream from the mine.”

And it notes, “Provincial officials continue to say the water is safe to drink as long as it is filtered… And computer modelling by the company’s consultants predict the metals from fine sediment in Quesnel Lake should clear up by August, say provincial officials. That comes as little comfort to some area residents who say they still don’t trust the water … and who also continue to worry about the long-term effects of the dam failure on fish, a concern shared by scientists.”

One week after the spill, the Council of Canadians participated in a march to the Vancouver office of Imperial Metals. We also issued the action alert B.C. mine disaster: Clean it up, don’t cover it up! And in late-August, we met with the Secwepmec community of Sugar Cane First Nation/Williams Lake Indian Band, whose territory, along with Xatsull/ Soda Creek First Nation, have been impacted by the mine disaster. We also visited the Yuct Ne Senxiymetkwe Camp to deliver food donations to the Secwepemc and allies who had established a monitoring checkpoint at the entrance of the mine. That September, we also co-hosted an hour-long webcast on the disaster with the Freshwater Alliance. That web-forum featured Jacinda Mack from Xat’sull First Nation and representatives from Fair Mining BC, and MiningWatch Canada.

The Council of Canadians believes that Imperial Metals’ application to reopen the Mount Polley mine should be rejected by the British Columbia government.