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BREAKING: Last-minute Charges Laid Against Mount Polley in Private Prosecution

In a surprise eleventh-hour move, indigenous activist and former Chief of the Xat’sull First Nation, Bev Sellars, has filed charges against the Mount Polley Mining Corporation, owned by Imperial Metals, for the mine disaster that saw 24 million cubic metres of mine waste released into Quesnel Lake on this day, three years ago.

The 15 charges, 10 under the B.C. Environmental Management Act and five under the B.C. Mines Act, were brought as part of a private prosecution against Mount Polley that can potentially be taken over by the new provincial government.

We just couldn’t let it go,” Sellars said in a press release. “In my culture, we have a sacred responsibility not only to care for the land, waters, animals, and people living today, but also for the next seven generations to come.”

I could not bear to witness B.C. simply stepping aside and giving up on its own responsibility to protect our shared environment and waters,” she stated.

Canada’s Environmental Fines are Tiny Compared to the U.S.

Mount Polley mine disaster

This week marks the three-year anniversary of the Mount Polley mine disaster, which sent 24 million cubic metres of mining waste into Quesnel Lake, making it one of the worst environmental disasters in Canadian history.

It’ll be a stinging reminder of the tailings pond collapse for local residents, especially considering no charges have been laid against Imperial Metals, owner and operator of Mount Polley.

Come August 5 it will be too late for B.C. to lay charges, given a three-year statute of limitations — however federal charges can be laid for another two years.

But here’s the thing: under the federal Fisheries Act, Mount Polley can receive a maximum of $12 million in fines: $6 million for causing harm to fish and fish habitat and $6 million for dumping deleterious substances without a permit into fish bearing waters.

Mount Polley Investigation Still On, Federal Charges ‘In Play,’ Says B.C. Environment Minister

George Heyman Environment Minister Mount Polley

B.C.’s new Minister of Environment, George Heyman, says he identifies with the many British Columbians eager for the outcome of the single ongoing investigation into the Mount Polley mine disaster that sent 24 million cubic metres of mining waste into Quesnel Lake on August 4, 2014.

I have spoken with the Parliamentary Secretary to the federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change. We are in agreement that British Columbians deserve a rigorous and independent investigation to determine exactly what went wrong and to ensure any person or company that broke the law is held responsible,” Heyman said in a press statement released Wednesday, two days before the provincial statute of limitations for Mount Polley expires.

No Charges, No Fines For Mount Polley Mine Disaster as Three-Year Legal Deadline Approaches

Mount Polley mine disaster

As the three-year anniversary of the Mount Polley mine disaster approaches, so too does the deadline for the province to lay any charges against mine owner Imperial Metals.

Considered one of the worst environmental disasters in Canadian history, the failure of the Mount Polley tailings pond sent an estimated 25 million cubic metres of contaminated mine waste flooding into Quesnel Lake, a source of drinking water for local residents of Likely, B.C., on August 4, 2014.

I would have expected something to have happened by now,” fisheries biologist and Likely resident Richard Holmes told DeSmog Canada. “I know they had a lot of information to sift through but it has been three years. I’m hopeful there will be some charges forthcoming.”

New Aerial Photos Show Site C Construction Impact As Utilities Commission Review Looms

 Site C Construction Peace River Comparison July 2017

Although former B.C. premier Christy Clark vowed to push the $9-billion Site C dam past the “point of no return” before the May 2017 provincial election, the fate of the most expensive public project in B.C.’s history is still far from certain.

B.C.'s new NDP government has vowed to send the dam for an expedited review of costs and demand by the B.C. Utilities Commission within a speedy six-week timeframe. 

New aerial photos of Site C construction show a small stretch of the Peace River valley significantly altered by excavation crews. The building of the actual dam and associated infrastructure has yet to take place. Unless the project is stopped, construction is expected to continue until 2024 when the filling of the reservoir will flood 107 kilometres of river valley, flooding valuable agricultural land and First Nations historic sites.

An analysis by the Program on Water Governance at the University of British Columbia found that, if completed, Site C would operate at a 100 per cent surplus incurring an estimated $800 million to $2 billion loss to B.C. ratepayers. That same analysis calculated cancellation of Site C by the end of June 2017 would save B.C. between $500 million and $1.65 billion.

Outgoing B.C. Liberals Issue Mining Permits in Tsilhqot’in Territory During Wildfire Evacuation

Tsilhqot'in First Nation Garth Lenz

The Tsilhqot’in First Nation — currently under an evacuation order due to B.C.’s wildfires — learned Monday that permits have been issued for mining company Taseko to conduct exploration for the New Prosperity mine, an open pit gold and copper mine twice rejected at the federal level.

Monday was the outgoing B.C. Liberal government’s final day in power. 

Copies of the documentation obtained by DeSmog Canada show the permit was granted to Taseko on Friday July 14th, as members of the Tsilhqot’in were under evacuation orders due to rampant wildfires in central B.C.

I appreciate this may come at a difficult time for you given the wildfire situation affecting some of your communities, however I made the permit decision Friday, ” Rick Adams, senior inspector with the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines, told Tsilhqot’in representatives in an e-mail.

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