British Columbia mine waste spill: one year later

One year after a catastrophic dam breach at the Mount Polley Mine in the interior of British Columbia, the facility has passed the first phase of remediation and resumed operations—with certain restrictions. The August 2014 disaster sent millions of cubic meters of water contaminated with mine waste into the local Hazeltine Creek, which ultimately flows into the Fraser River. Water-use bans were issued for several local towns, and the spill prompted the government to toughen mine permitting requirements. Imperial Metals Corp has completed a "Phase 1" clean-up overseen by the BC Ministry of Environment. The company has supposedly ensured that water entering Quesnel Lake, which Hazeltine Creek flows through on its way to the Fraser, meets provincial quality standards. The provincial government issued the conditional permit allowing the Mount Polley mine to reopen earlier this month. However, the company cannot discharge water until it receives a second conditional permit, likely in the early fall. (Globe & Mail, July 29, 2015; ThinkProgress, Aug. 5, 2014)

After the accident, the Neskonlith Indian Band issued an "eviction notice" to Imperial's subsidiary Ruddock Creek Mining, which sought to begin operations on the tribe's traditional lands. Chief Judy Wilson accused the company of negligence, charging that the Mount Polley disaster "could have been prevented if Imperial Metals had proper risk assessment and management practices in place; and the provincial and federal governments had properly assessed and monitored the mining operation."

Wilson pledged direct action to stop the mine if need be. "Our people made a declaration opposing the Ruddock Creek mine and held water ceremonies to protect our water and salmon," she said. "Our council stands with our elders and people, we oppose the proposed Ruddock Creek mine by Imperial Metals and hereby evict Imperial Metals from our territory,” she says.” If Imperial Metals does not comply, Neskonlith will also block access to the Ruddock Creek Mine to ensure it is closed indefinitely." (ATPN, Aug. 13)

  1. Mining waste contaminates lake in BC

    The British Columbia Ministry of Environment has quietly granted the Mount Polley Mining Corporation permission to drain mining waste directly into Quesnel Lake, BC's deepest fjord lake and a source of drinking water for residents of Likely, BC, as part of a "long-term water management plan." Local environmental group Northern Confluence states that this means " a huge increase in the amount of heavy metals, like selenium, copper, arsenic and others, they can release into the lake." (DeSmogCanada)