Council of Canadians hosts web-forum on Mount Polley tailings disaster

Photo: The interactive forum on the Mount Polley mine disaster.
Photo: The interactive forum on the Mount Polley mine disaster.

Last Friday (September 12), the Council of Canadians and the Freshwater Alliance hosted an hour-long webcast on the Mount Polley mine tailings spill disaster in British Columbia. The on-line forum featured Jacinda Mack from Xat’sull First Nation, Amy Cook from Fair Mining BC, and Ramsey Hart from MiningWatch Canada.

Council of Canadians organizer Brigette DePape writes, "Pacific regional organizer Leila Darwish did a great job co-facilitating the webinar with Susie Porter Bopp from the Freshwater Alliance!"

The Mount Polley gold and copper mine tailings spill - which happened on August 4 - is one of the worst environmental disasters in Canada. The breach of the tailings pond dam released nearly 25 million cubic metres of contaminated water and mine waste spilled into surrounding waterways. The massive spill has contaminated watersheds and is having devastating impacts on First Nations and nearby communities.

Darwish writes, "Since the spill, directly impacted First Nations and allies have been calling for independent testing of Hazeltine Creek, Quesnel Lake and its confluence with the Fraser River, and for government and Imperial Metals Corp to launch a major clean-up. The spill has raised concern about the potential impact on humans and ecosystems in Secwepmec territories and beyond, and has placed BC’s entire mining industry under increased scrutiny."

DePape highlights, "During the on-line forum, Jacinda Mack said that one of the most critical pieces is that the nearby town of Likely still doesn't have clean water. Due to sediment plume in the lake, perfectly clear water has turned green. Another major problem is around the hunting and fishing for her Nation around food. Their diet depends on salmon, deer and game, but with the buffer around disaster area people don’t feel comfortable to take that salmon."

The interactive webcast was an opportunity to learn more about the spill through first hand accounts of what is happening on the ground as well as to discuss what can be done by different groups, community organizers and allies to stand with the communities in urgent need of our support. DePape notes, "Leila concluded the forum by repeating the importance of supporting frontline communities and putting pressure on the government and industry to clean up this spill and make sure this gets dealt with in the best possible way."

To watch 'Responding to Mount Polley: Interactive Webcast for Communities, Groups, Organizers and Allies', please click here.

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, Darwish met with Chief Anne Louie from 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 Mount Polley mine disaster. She also visited the Yuct Ne Senxiymetkwe Camp to deliver food donations to the Secwepemc and allies who have established a monitoring checkpoint at the entrance of the Mount Polley mine. To read more, please see Darwish's blog Imperial Metals and Government Focus on Covering Up Instead of Cleaning Up.