The Council of Canadians will be part of a march to the Vancouver office of Imperial Metals on Monday August 11 at 2:00 p.m. PDT.
On August 4, 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 last year, 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.
Global News reports Council of Canadians organizer Leila Darwish commenting, “A spill like that is devastating. People don’t know the extent of the contamination, how far it's moved into different water systems… what’s going to happen to that sludge. The safe thing would be not to have these mines. What we’re risking is too high.” Shalalth-based Council of Canadians board member Garry John says, “Our people are at the riverside wondering if their vital food source is safe to eat."
A state of emergency has been declared in the Cariboo Region where the mine and tailings pond is located. A drinking water and water-use ban is also in place on the Quesnel and Cariboo river systems extending from the mine to the Fraser River, several hundred kilometres away. The 300 residents of Likely are relying on emergency water supplies now. And the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has now banned salmon fishing in the Cariboo and Quesnel rivers.
This disaster is believed to be the largest of its kind in Canadian history. The amount of toxic waste water released from the tailings pond is the equivalent to about 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The mine was already an environmental hazard before this happened.
In 2012, B.C.'s ministry of environment granted a permit to Imperial Metals that allowed the mine to discharge up to 1.4 million cubic metres of treated effluent from the tailings pond into Hazeltine Creek each year. In July, the company requested a permit to dump up to 3 million cubic metres of the effluent into Polley Lake. B.C.'s minister of energy and mines Bill Bennett has confirmed that Imperial Metals had been warned to remove water from the tailings pond after a site inspection in May. Brian Olding & Associates, an environmental consulting firm, say they raised concerns about the mine in 2011 that were ignored by the company.
Billionaire N. Murray Edwards owns 36 per cent of Imperial Metals. Edwards is a co-owner of the Calgary Flames NHL hockey team.
Imperial Metals is also proposing the Ruddock Creek lead and zinc mine near Tum Tum lake at the headwaters of the Upper Adams River in the territory of the Neskonlith and Secwepec. And they are planning a copper mine at Catface Mountain in Ahousaht territory and the Fandora gold mine on Tla-o-qui-aht territory.
There are about 20 operating mines with similar tailings pond dams in British Columbia.
For more on the August 11 protest, please see this Facebook event page.