Mount Polley: Three Months On and Still No Accountability

It's been three months since the largest tailings pond disaster in history occurred in Northern BC when the dam holding back the tailings pond for Imperial Metals' Mount Polley Mine gave way and  sent 25 million cubic meters of mining waste surging through Hazeltine Creek and into Quesnel Lake; BC 's deepest freshwater lake and a major tributary of the Fraser River Watershed.

No charges or fines have been lain against Imperial Metals, pending  an independent investigation due to release its findings early in the new year. Meanwhile, BC's Minister of Energy and Mines, the Hon. Bill Bennett, has introduced an amendment to the Mines Act that will grant the investigation as much as 3 years to bring forward any charges; shirking accountability for the biggest environmental disaster in modern Canadian history until after the next election cycle. To date the BC government has stonewalled attempts to access environmental assessments of Mount Polley mine dating as far back as 1992, citing a reluctance to compromise the integrity of their three investigations into the mine disaster as justification for breaking the Information Act. When Bennett's Ministry eventually did release some of the reports in question, it was revealed that staffing cuts had forced them to skip their inspection of the Mount Polley Mine in 2010 and 2011. 

BC's Ministry of the Environment has downplayed samples taken from the tailings plume in Quesnel Lake a full month after the spill showing levels of dissolved copper three and a half times higher than the maximum guidelines in Imperial's own assessments.  Even short term exposure to high concentrations of dissolved copper is known to severely damage a salmon's olfactory senses, destroying their ability to lock on to the scent of their spawning streams. With a recent report from UNBC's Quesnel River Research Center showing that this plume has begun to enter the Quesnel River, serious concerns remain over the potentially devastating impact this disaster might have on future sockeye returns.

Probably most damning of all was the release of an alarming e-mail between high-ranking Ministry of the Environment staff revealing major gaps in the province's ability to monitor spills and adequately enforce its polluter-pay model. Clearly our province needs better oversight of mining operations and improved accountability for big polluters like Imperial Metals. British Columbians shouldn't have to wait 3 years to see justice done. Please, click here to send a message to Bill Bennett and the BC Government letting them know that you want to see accountability now.

You can also support our call for justice in the wake of the Mount Polley disaster by becoming a donor. A monthly contribution of $50, $25, or even just $10 a month will go a long way in helping us to protect your right to swim, drink, and fish in BC's waters.

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