Mount Polley Mine Disaster Raises Questions for Citizens of BC
It’s been over three months since the Mount Polley mine disaster. Distant summer memories of snapshots show mountains of toxic tailings debris coating the once pristine Hazeltine and Cariboo Creek beds. Images of a grey plume of necrosis, entering the emerald Quesnel and Polley Lakes. This once iconic scenery of beautiful British Columbia suddenly reflecting the moonscape of oil sands tailing ponds.
Days after the August 4, 2014 spill of nearly 15 million cubic meters of toxic mine waste, there was assurance that the Province of British Columbia was conducting water quality monitoring and reviewing Imperial Metals Corp’s response to the spill. There were claims that drinking water guidelines were still being met in Quesnel and Polley Lake following the spill, alongside the claim that the incident may be the largest mining disaster in Canadian history, and certainly the largest in the history of British Columbia. Adding to the turbid waters of ambiguous information released by the Province and Imperial Metals was the stifling media coverage of the event. Not only was the event dubbed as a rare accident due to the incompetence of one company, but the event also failed to skim the surface of international news and received fleeting coverage by national news.
Now, months later, two investigations are currently underway. In August, the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association issued a complaint that the government did not inform the public about risks identified in a 2010 safety report. And most recently, the Environmental Law Center (ELC) issued a complaint that the B.C. government has breached the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act, by withholding Mount Polley’s routine mine inspection reports from 2010 and 2013.
As citizens of British Columbia we “are the only people without the documents –the people being kept in the dark,” the ELC complaint states. We want to know what is happening with our neighbors in Likely, BC. We want to know if there is water quality monitoring being carried out by the province, by Imperial Metals Corp, by community groups and individuals. We want to know the results of this monitoring, what it means and how the results compare to each other and to the baseline. We want to know how this event will affect local communities and healthy ecosystem functioning, now and in the future.
By Raegan Mallinson
Water Stewardship Coordinator