Fall 2014 Update
On August 5, 2014, the tailings impoundment pond dam failed at Imperial Metals' Mount Polley copper, gold and silver mine in south-central BC. The subsequent release is estimated at ten million cubic metres of water and five billion litres of solid waste. This was discharged into Hazeltine Creek, which drains to Polley Lake and subsequently into Quesnel Lake.
Grave concerns have been expressed about the health and safety of exposed populations of humans and wildlife. Some people reported bathing in and drinking water that could have been contaminated. A record sockeye salmon return is under way and there are reasonable concerns about the effect of the toxics released on these food fish.
Production at the mine increased sharply in recent years and the toxics inventory data reflects this. A look at the mercury figures is possibly the most dramatic, standing at 3000 kg for 2013. You can read more about the facility's toxic releases on-site on the Environment Canada website.
Production figures for 2014 to date are not reported and it isn't clear how much of the releases were to this facility, nor how much remains in the impoundment. As of August 11, 2014, CBC reported what is described as a controlled release from Polley Lake and into Hazeltine Creek. The Cariboo Regional District has used its emergency legislative powers to restrict access to government and mine staff. This is said to be a public safety measure.
To learn more about this topic, there are many news stories available online. Here are a few suggested readings:
A good starting point can be found at Miningwatch
For updates close to the scene, visit the Williams Lake news section on Caboodle.ca
An interview with a recently resigned mine foreman is suggestive, as is a disclaimer issued by the mine's former engineers of record
A good interview with mining activist Glenda Ferris by Charlie Smith
Of course, there are also the usual fatuous, useless accusations, misdirection and dismissals and doomer porn in all directions. It turns out that, magically, no one is responsible. A look at Google news (as of August 14) shows about eight thousand stories when searching for “Mount Polley”, and they’re all over the map.
Also, some people are not just looking at damage control, but also at the longer-term implications for toxic releases and policy implications.
Dig in, as there's a lot to read and think about!
National Orphaned and Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI)
- Report on NOAMI Best Practices Workshop – December 2006
- National Orphaned and Abandoned Mines Initiative: A Workshop to Explore Best Practices - October 2006
- Update on NOAMI - July 2006
- NOAMI Newsletter - April 2006
Metal Mining Effluent Regulations & Environmental Effects Monitoring Program
- MMER/EEM Summary - December 2006
- MMEEM ENGO Involvement Survey – December 2006
- Metal Mining Effluent Regulations Multi-Stakeholder Advisory Group – 2005-2006
Community of Interest Panel for the Mining Association of Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining initiative
Fair Mining Collaborative, BC
MiningWatch Canada, ON
Bathurst Sustainable Development, NB
Linda Sheppard Whalen
Centre for Long-Term Environmental Action in Newfoundland and Labrador, NL
Sierra Club of BC