Top News

Monday, August 25, 2014 - 15:30 • Chris Rose

Canada’s largest port has given the green light to a proposed controversial facility on the Fraser River that would unload U.S. coal destined for energy-hungry Asia.

Despite facing significant environmental and health concerns, Port Metro Vancouver said in its decision, released last Thursday, that the proposed coal transfer facility at Fraser Surrey Docks poses no unacceptable risks.

The $15 million project could handle at least four million metric tonnes of coal per year delivered by the Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railway Company. It will then be loaded onto barges at the Surrey facility and transferred to ocean-going carriers at Texada Island, prior to export.

Referring to environmental studies and mitigation efforts, Jim Crandles, Port Metro Vancouver’s director of planning and development, was quoted as saying “we are confident that the project does not pose a risk to the environment or human health and that the public is protected.”

Disappointed opponents, however, said there are many unanswered questions about local and regional impacts of building and operating the facility.

Those include coal dust and diesel exhaust exposure in local populations, fire risks associated with storing coal in open barges in local communities, noise impacts, emergency vehicle access constraints, and impacts associated with transporting coal in open barges on the ocean.

Saturday, August 23, 2014 - 13:26 • Carol Linnitt
mount polley mine tailings pond breach in BC

It’s hard to deal [with] and treat something if you don’t know what it is,” Richard Holmes, fisheries biologist with Cariboo Envirotech, said in an interview at Mount Polley Mine, home to the tailings pond that breached August 4th, sending an estimated 14.5 billion litres of mining waste into the local environment, including Quesnel Lake, a major source of drinking water in the Cariboo region of B.C.

At this stage the impacts on Quesnel Lake are virtually unknown,” Holmes said.

Very little is known about the significance of the accident, although it has been nearly three weeks since the spill, one of the worst environmental disasters in B.C.’s history, that sent the Cariboo region into a state of local emergency.

Last week authorities rescinded a broad drinking water ban that prevented residents from bathing in or drinking the water, or eating locally caught fish. A partial drinking ban remains in place for the immediate region of the spill, including Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek and a one hundred metre zone surrounding the spot where the billions of litres of tailings waste poured into Quesnel Lake.

It is this particular area, where sludge from the spill sits slumped into Quesnel Lake, that is of concern to Holmes.

Monday, August 18, 2014 - 16:53 • Carol Linnitt
Bev Sellers

The Soda Creek First Nation, traditionally called the Xatśūll First Nation, is going to tap into band savings for a community centre to pay for independent scientists to study the local environment in the wake of the Mount Polley mine spill that sent billions of litres of mining waste in Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake.

Bev Sellars, chief of the Soda Creek said ever since the spill occurred it has been difficult to find reliable sources of information.

The reports coming out from mining and the government say everything is fine, but we don’t really believe that,” she said in an interview in Vancouver. “A disaster such as this – there are going to be long term effects.”

Major concerns for her nation have to do with the long-term effects of the spill on Quesnel Lake, which is in the traditional territory of the Soda Creek First Nation and the Williams Lake Indian Band.

Monday, August 18, 2014 - 11:48 • Albrecht Berg
Tahltan Roadblock, Red Chris Mine

Imperial Metals is experiencing troubled times.

After the catastrophic breach of a toxic tailings pond at its Mount Polley mine on August 4th, British Columbians across the province have called into question the safety of the company’s other mega mine projects.

The Red Chris mine, located in B.C.’s northwestern corner is now under intense scrutiny by protestors from the Tahltan Nation who are blocking access to the company’s site, saying they won’t leave until independent reviewers address mine safety concerns.

On August 8th, the Klabona Keepers, headed by a group of mostly women elders, set up two camps, blocking each of the two access roads to the mine. Trucks are parked across the roads and makeshift wooden barricades have been erected to keep company vehicles from entering.

Friday, August 15, 2014 - 11:42 • Judith Lavoie
Lake Fanning, algae bloom, mink farms

When Debbie and Allen Hall bought waterfront property on Lake Fanning in Nova Scotia, they looked forward to a relaxing semi-retirement with their six grandchildren swimming and playing in the lake.

But, a decade later, the Yarmouth-area lake is unusable because of scummy blue-green algae blooms, most likely caused by manure run-off from nearby mink farms. The Halls considered moving and taking a financial blow, but have now resorted to building a swimming pool in an effort to reclaim a fraction of the lifestyle they dreamt about.

We used to think of the classic cliché of fun at the lake, running and jumping off the dock. Now there are massive blooms from late May until November and when they die off, the bacterial decomposition uses up all the oxygen and we end up with huge dead zones,” said Debbie Hall.

Nova Scotia lakes and rivers have been polluted by excess nutrients and phosphorus to the point that no one knows when — or if — they will recover and studies point the finger at fur farms.

There are now 150 mink farms in Nova Scotia and the industry generated $140 million last year with most of the pelts going to Russia, China and South Korea.

Thursday, August 14, 2014 - 15:34 • Carol Linnitt
mount polley mine tailings pond breach in BC

It has been 10 days since the tailings pond holding billions of litres of mining waste breached at the Mount Polley mine near Likely, B.C. sending arsenic and mercury-laced water and slurry into the Hazeltine Creek which feeds Quesnel Lake, a major source of drinking water and home to one quarter of the province’s sockeye salmon.

Yet local residents still have no idea when clean up of the spill site might begin.

On a recent trip to the spill site, DeSmog Canada learned no cleanup crews are currently working on removing the tremendous amount of mining waste clogging up what used to be the Hazeltine Creek and spreading out into Quesnel Lake.

David Karn, media relations with the ministry of environment, was unable to provide information or comment on an expected cleanup date or who would be performing the cleanup, industry or government.

Imperial Metals, also reached out to for comment, was unable to respond by the time of publication.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 16:37 • Carol Linnitt
Coralee Oaks and Donna Bernett, Mount Polley mine, tailings pond breach, drinking water ban

There were audible scoffs from the crowd Tuesday as Cariboo MLAs told residents in Likely, B.C. that the drinking water ban has been lifted for areas near the Mount Polley mine where a tailings pond breached Monday, August 4th sending billions of litres of mining wastewater and solid materials into Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake.

The drinking ban remains in effect for Mount Polley, Hazeltine Creek and an area 100 metres immediately surrounding the visible sediment plume at the mouth of the Hazeltine Creek where debris and sludge from the spill poured into Quesnel Lake, the primary source of drinking water for local residents.

At a small community press conference on the edge of the Quesnel River in Likely, B.C. Donna Barnett, MLA for the Cariboo-Chilcotin and parliamentary secretary for forests, lands and natural resource operations for rural developments, said, “this is a good news story.”

Residents have been dealing with uncertainty since last week, she said. “Well, finally we can give you some certainty.”