Mount Polley Re-Opens, Neighbours - 'Collateral Damage'?

Mount Polley Re-Opens, Neighbours - 'Collateral Damage'?

Postby Oscar » Fri Jul 10, 2015 3:42 pm

As Mount Polley Re-Opens, Neighbours Feel Like 'Collateral Damage'

[ ... ign=100715 ]

Fishing guide supports mine's reboot, but says more is owed to those hurt by 2014 spill.

By David P. Ball, July 10, 2015 ,

The British Columbia government has given the green light for Imperial Metals to re-open its Mount Polley mine, 11 months after the mine's tailings pond broke and dumped 25 million cubic metres of toxin-laden sludge into the environment near Williams Lake.

The firm received a "conditional" permit that will allow it to unload waste water into a mining pit on site, which has been deemed safe by inspectors. For now, Imperial Metals is forbidden from discharging any water off-site or into the failed tailings storage facility.

But Mines Minister Bill Bennett expressed confidence that the firm could successfully get permits for those activities by next summer -- so long as authorities are convinced they are safe and pose no risk to the environment.

In a teleconference on Thursday, Bennett said the "careful" decision to reopen Mount Polley is welcome in the Cariboo region, with more than 200 workers set to return to their jobs.

Imperial Metals will still have to jump through two more hoops before any long-term operating plan is approved, he said. "From mid-July until sometime early mid-fall, they will be allowed to operate -- to keep these families working and to generate some revenue for the company."

Before full operations resume, Mount Polley must obtain a water discharge permit by this fall, and submit a "long-term plan" next year, the minister said. No permit will be issued unless the water discharged into the environment is safe for both drinking and aquatic organisms, he said.

- - - SNIP - - -

While the return of mining jobs may be welcome news for many, the scars of the 2014 disaster remain. Hazeltine Creek, which flows below the dam, has seen extensive cleanup work, but much of the slurry deposited at the deep bottom of Quesnel Lake remains unaddressed.

Borkowski used to drink the water from Quesnel Lake, but said that since the spill he hasn't "had a sip."

"No one really knows what's in there," he said of toxins such as mercury, arsenic and lead that the company itself declared were in its tailings pond.

Borkowski said authorities still have much to learn from the largest mine tailings accident in Canadian history. "I'm sure no one wanted this to happen, but it did. There should have been more caution taken right from the beginning."

He said his beloved lake "will never be the same," and the damage is done.

"At 67 years old, it's a little late to start over," he said. "We don't have 10 years to rebuild the business. This is the age where we cram for finals before we circle the drain."
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Re: Mount Polley Re-Opens, Neighbours - 'Collateral Damage'?

Postby Oscar » Fri Jul 10, 2015 3:53 pm

Mount Polley Mine Reopens Despite Ongoing Investigations

[ ... stigations ]

Ottawa, July 10 2015

MiningWatch Canada is concerned that the BC government’s decision to reopen the Mount Polley mine is premature as long as the operator, Imperial Metals, is still under two investigations for its failure to prevent the biggest catastrophic mining spill in Canadian history on August 4 of last year.

“Actions do not seem to follow words. Minister Bennett and his government said that they would follow all seven recommendations from the independent expert panel report released in January 2015, including putting environmental safety ahead of pure economic interests,” says Ugo Lapointe, Canada Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada.

Lapointe fears the BC government is putting the cart way before the horse: “The ongoing investigations could lead to serious civil and criminal charges against Imperial Metals or its contractors, which in turn could lead to severe or very costly sanctions or litigations. This critical information should be made publicly available before even thinking of reopening the mine.”

Nearly a year after the disaster, the mining watchdog is also concerned that most of the environmental and socioeconomic costs are assumed by British Columbians and local First Nations, and not by Imperial Metals. “We are very concerned of the lack of detailed assessments of the costs and damages caused so far by this massive failure onto the local environment, communities, and businesses, as well as onto First Nations’ rights and livelihoods in the area. Who will ultimately compensate and pay the bill for all of those damages? The persistent blanket of silence on this issue is very worrisome,” says Lapointe.

Yesterday’s announcement was also a surprise because there is still no long term plan regarding site clean-up costs, water treatment, and mining wastes management. “Again, we seem to be repeating the same mistakes as before by prioritizing the company's economic interests over safety and the environment,” adds Lapointe. "This can be portrayed as helping get a few of the mineworkers back to work, but it really looks more like it's about getting Imperial Metals back to profitability."

The catastrophic failure of the tailings dam at the Mount Polley mine sent over 24 billion litres of solid and liquid mining wastes into the surrounding, salmon-bearing waters. The long term and full extent of impacts caused by the spill are not well understood yet.

MiningWatch Canada has welcomed the BC government's recent initiative to review the provincial mining code, but warned that the review needs to be broad enough to address the full range of necessary changes following the Mount Polley Independent Expert Panel Report, [ ] the First Nations Energy and Mining Council Report,[ ... nd-report/ ] and the recent Auditor General Report on cumulative effects of resource development in the province. [ ... 0FINAL.pdf ]

For more information, contact Ugo Lapointe, (514) 708-0134
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Re: Mount Polley Re-Opens, Neighbours - 'Collateral Damage'?

Postby Oscar » Thu Jul 23, 2015 4:14 pm

Canada’s Mines Ministers ‘Open’ to Taking Action to Prevent Future Mine Waste Disasters, But Concrete Commitments Lacking

[ ... ete-commit ]

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Halifax – As Canada’s annual Energy & Mines Ministers Conference winds up in Halifax, MiningWatch Canada is pleased that Canada’s Mines Ministers have discussed mine waste management issues following last year’s massive Mount Polley spill in British Columbia. But the mining watch dog is also concerned that the meeting will not result with any concrete commitments in in order to prevent future mine waste disasters.

“Talks aren’t enough. Mines Ministers from all provinces & territories need to take concrete steps in order to prevent future mine waste disasters in this country,” says Ugo Lapointe, Canada Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, in Halifax today.

In his closing remarks, British Columbia Minister Bennett said that all Canada’s Mines Ministers had ‘a good talk’ on Mount Polley’s spill and its implications. A closed-door session was held this morning on this topic. But Lapointe explains it’s impossible to know exactly what was said: “The media and the public could not attend this closed-door session. We asked Minister Bennett and his counterparts to be more specific about the outcomes of this meeting. We haven’t had a clear answer yet.”

Yesterday, a coalition representing thousands of Canadians and concerned organizations sent a letter to all Canada’s Mines Ministers urging them to take immediate action to assess and prevent the threat posed by hundreds of mine waste dams and impoundments in all provinces and territories. [ ... tter_0.pdf ]

The groups are pressuring the ministers to respond to the lessons learned from the August 2014 Mount Polley mine disaster in British Columbia – the biggest mining waste spill in Canadian history. [ ] They are urging provincial and territorial governments to work together to support and implement all of the Mount Polley Independent Expert Review Panel’s [ ] recommendations (see all recommendations in the letter). [ ... tter_0.pdf ]

The Expert Panel firmly rejected any notion “that business as usual can continue,” and urged the industry and all regulators to change the way mining waste facilities are designed, operated, and regulated in order to avoid any future failures: “The Panel does not accept the concept of a tolerable failure rate for tailings dams. To do so, no matter how small, would institutionalize failure. First Nations will not accept this, the public will not permit it, government will not allow it, and the mining industry will not survive it.”

The groups also recommend additional scrutiny for mines upstream of the Canada-U.S. border that could present a risk to either country’s waters.

For further information and a complete list of the signatories, see the letter.
[ ... tter_0.pdf ]

For information:
• Ugo Lapointe, MiningWatch Canada (English/Français): (514) 708-0134
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Re: Mount Polley Re-Opens, Neighbours - 'Collateral Damage'?

Postby Oscar » Fri Jan 13, 2017 9:26 pm

Mount Polley Disaster Stunner: Federal Government Moves To Stop MiningWatch Presenting Evidence To Court

[ ... presenting ]

News Release 13 January 2017, 4.48 pm EST

(Williams Lake, B.C.) The federal Crown announced this morning that it is moving to stay MiningWatch’s charges against the B.C. government and Mount Polley Mining Corporation (MPMC)—owned by Imperial Metals—over the largest mine waste disaster in Canadian history. If successful, the Crown action would prevent MiningWatch from presenting evidence to the Court about the 2014 spill’s damages to downstream waters and fish habitat, in violations of the Fisheries Act (see backgrounder below). [ ... suit_0.pdf ]

“We were stunned that the federal Crown does not even want us (to) show the Court that there was enough evidence to justify proceeding with a prosecution against both the B.C. government & MPMC for the worst mining spill in Canadian history,” says Ugo Lapointe, Canada Program Coordinator for MiningWatch.

The Court will decide in the next few weeks if the Crown is allowed to enter a stay of charges so early in the process, without even first hearing the evidence from the private prosecutor (MiningWatch).

MiningWatch is concerned that by staying these proceedings without clear justifications, the Crown is sending the wrong signal to industry across Canada and further undermines public confidence in the ability of our regulatory system to effectively protect our environment.

Says Lapointe, “We initiated this private prosecution [ ... -mine-2014 ] out of concern that it has now been over two and a half years since the Mount Polley disaster happened and yet, despite clear evidence of violations of Canadian laws, no charges have been brought forward by any level of government.”

The Public Prosecution Service of Canada Deskbook describes private prosecutions as “a valuable constitutional safeguard against inertia or partiality on the part of authorities.” MiningWatch’s lawyer, Lilina Lysenko, says, “Staying the charges prior to having the opportunity to determine whether or not there is enough evidence to proceed could undermine this constitutional safeguard if it is done without good reason.”

This decision also raises serious questions about the federal Crown’s real intention to lay, or not, its own charges against B.C. government and MPMC. Lapointe explains, “Soon to be three years after the fact, they still haven't filed their own charges. What confidence can the public have that if they can't even say when, or if, they will file their own charges? They're welcome to take over the case, but to prosecute it, not to stay, dismiss or stall the proceedings.”

Call to action

MiningWatch is calling on the public to seek answers and clear commitment from the federal government to enforce its own environmental laws when they are violated. Please take the time to write to both Hon. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ( and Hon. Dominic Leblanc, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans ( Let them know you want the Canadian Fisheries Act to be enforced promptly in the case of the Mount Polley Mine disaster in British-Columbia. More actions will follow.

MiningWatch's legal action is supported by multiple local, provincial, and national organizations, including West Coast Environmental Law-Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (main funder), Amnesty International Canada, Sierra Club BC, Wilderness Committee, First Nations Women Advocating for Responsible Mining, Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake, Quesnel River Watershed Alliance, Fair Mining Collaborative, Rivers Without Borders, British Columbia Environmental Network, Clayoquot Action, Forest Protection Allies, Kamloops Area Preservation Association, Kamloops Physicians for the Environment Society, Alaska Clean Water Advocacy.

For more information:

Ugo Lapointe, Canada Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, c.514-708-0134


With the support of multiple organizations, MiningWatch filed a private prosecution [ ... -mine-2014 ] in October 2016 claiming that the massive 2014 spill destroyed or altered large swaths of fish habitat, in clear violations of sections 35(1) and 36(3) of the federal Fisheries Act (see also backgrounder online). [ ... suit_0.pdf ]

On August 4 2014, Mount Polley Mine’s tailings dam collapsed and sent up to 25 million cubic metres (10,000 Olympic-size pools) of wastewater and mine waste solids into downstream waters, destroying or affecting over 2,612,470 m2 of aquatic and riparian habitats—equivalent to about 500 football fields or 1500 ice hockey rinks.

Impact assessment reports of the spill commissioned by BC’s Ministry of Environment and MPMC indicate strong evidence of an impact to sediments, both physically and chemically, within Hazeltine Creek, Polley Lake, and Quesnel Lake.

Chemical impacts are most evident in elevated copper, but also in concentrations of iron, selenium, arsenic, vanadium, manganese, and other contaminants. In some instances, concentrations consistently exceeded provincial Sediment Quality Guidelines (and above background levels).

The National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) [ ] reports that the Mount Polley Mine represented the largest emitter of copper, arsenic and manganese in Canadian waters in 2014 due to the tailings spill.

Studies also indicated effects to benthic invertebrates, which are also protected under the Fisheries Act. Effects are ranging from an absence of organisms, lower density and taxon richness, and limited differences in community composition.

MiningWatch is taking action now because it is concerned that, almost two and a half years after the disaster, governments have failed to lay charges and enforce the law, despite clear and ample evidence to justify proceeding. MiningWatch fears that this sends the wrong signal to the industry across the country and undermines public confidence in the capacity of our regulatory system to work effectively to protect our environment.

Under specific provisions of the Canadian Criminal Code and the Fisheries Act, any citizen can initiate a private prosecution if he or she believes, on reasonable grounds, that a person has committed an indictable offence. In order words, the legislation specifically provides an incentive for private persons to enforce federal laws like the Fisheries Act in order to ensure the protection of public resources, such fish and fish habitat, even if against the Federal or Provincial Crown. As stated in the Public Prosecution Service of Canada Deskbook, private prosecutions are “a valuable constitutional safeguard against inertia or partiality on the part of authorities.”

While MiningWatch is prepared to carry the case to full trial if necessary, it also recognizes that the cost and expense associated with prosecuting a case against a mining corporation and the Provincial Government can be immense. For this reason, it will be asking for the Federal Crown to carry the prosecution forward. If Canada’s unique environmental values and waters are to be fully protected, it can only occur if the government stands against violations of its own laws and uses all the means and resources it has at its disposal to do so.


News Advisory: First Hearings this Week for MiningWatch Charges Against B.C. Government and Mount Polley Mining Corporation 12.01.2017

[ ... -and-mount ]

News Mining watchdog files against Mount Polley 18.10.2016
[ ... unt-polley ]

News MiningWatch Canada Files Charges Against B.C. Government and Mount Polley Mine for 2014 Tailings Pond Disaster 18.10.2016
[ ... -mine-2014 ]

News Advisory: MiningWatch Canada in Williams Lake, B.C. to Announce Court Action for 2014 Mount Polley Mine Waste Disaster 17.10.2016
[ ... unt-polley ]

News BC Government Stalling on Mount Polley Mining Corporation Reports 10.10.2016
[ ... on-reports ]
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