tailings pond breach

Christy Clark Worried Mount Polley Spill Would Harm New Mine Construction, New Docs Show

Mount Polley Mine Disaster

By Jeremy J.Nuttall for The Tyee.

In the hours after the 2014 Mount Polley mine disaster, authorities were already concerned laws had been broken and the premier’s office was worried fallout from the tailing pond breach would “get in the way” of other planned mines, documents provided to The Tyee reveal.

Almost three years after the disaster, and weeks away from a deadline to lay charges under B.C.’s environment act, no charges have been laid and no fines levied.

The government’s initial reaction to the dam’s collapse is revealed in hundreds of pages of emails and other communications obtained through a freedom of information request and provided to The Tyee by Jessica Ross, an independent researcher and member of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association.

Ross said she filed the FOI request almost three years ago and only received the documents July 4.

The Last Cast: Northern Lights Lodge Dims Early After Mount Polley Mine Spill

Skeed Borkowski Northern Lights Lodge, DeSmog Canada, Mount Polley mine spill

I planned on dying here,” Skeed Borkowski, owner of the Northern Lights Lodge, told me. “But not from drinking the water.”

The lodge, located on Quesnel Lake, is one of many local homes and businesses left to hang precariously in the aftermath of the Mount Polley mine spill that released billions of litres of mining waste into the local environment, including Quesnel Lake.

On August 4th a massive tailings pond holding waste water and sediment from the Imperial Metals gold and copper mine breached, sending a mixture of contaminants including arsenic, mercury, selenium, zinc and lead into Polley Lake and Hazeltine Creek, which flows into Quesnel Lake.

I’m 66,” Skeed said. “My wife is 64. This was the time that we were going to…take it a little easier.

Nearly Three Weeks Later, Impact of Mount Polley Spill on Quesnel Lake Virtually Unknown: Expert

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.

Swapping Red Tape for Caution Tape: Why B.C. Can Expect More Mount Polleys

mount polley mine tailings pond breach in BC

As we pull up to the mouth of the Hazeltine Creek, where billions of litres of mining waste from the Imperial Metals Mount Polley mine spilled into Quesnel Lake on August 4th, I’m thinking to myself what numerous locals have recently said to me: this shouldn’t have happened.

All of the warning signs were present that the waste pit for the mine was overburdened: employees raised the alarm, government citations were issued, engineering reports contained warnings.

It shouldn’t have happened, and yet it did.

10 Days In, No Cleanup Effort at Site of Imperial Metals Mount Polley Mine Spill

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.

Photos: I Went to the Mount Polley Mine Spill Site

imperial metals mount polley mine tailings pond breach in BC

It’s Monday, August 11th, and both my gumboots are dangerously sinking into the muck I’m trying to cross.

I took far too bold a step towards a sturdy log ahead as I’m trying to cross a sludge river left behind in the wake of the Mount Polly mine tailings pond breach.

Now I’m balanced precariously, one boot in front, one behind, and trying not to topple into the muck beneath that could contain high levels of arsenic, mercury, zinc, lead and selenium – all toxins and heavy metals stored in the breached tailings pond fed by the Imperial Metals gold and copper mine near Likely B.C.

Concerns Linger After Drinking Water Ban Rescinded for Area Affected by Mount Polley Tailings Pond Breach

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.”

Residents Refuse to Drink Water, Despite Ban Lift, After Mount Polley Mine Disaster

mount polley mine tailings pond breach in BC

Residents in Likely, B.C. are concerned about drinking water affected by Mount Polley mining waste even after a water use ban was lifted for areas downstream of Quesnel Lake. The ban was put into effect on August 5, 2014, one day after the tailings pond at Mount Polley mine breached, sending billions of litres of mining waste into Hazeltine Creek, which feeds Quesnel Lake and Quesnel River.

The water advisory, released by the Cariboo Regional District, previously recommended not drinking water in the Quesnel Lake, Cariboo Creek, Hazeltine Creek and Polley Lake areas and extended down the entire Quesnel and Cariboo River systems to the Fraser River.

On Saturday the ban was lifted for areas south of 6236 Cedar Creek Road in Likely along the Quesnel River which flows north to Quesnel.

They lifted the water ban, but I don’t know a lot of people who are going to drink that water,” Kyle Giesbrecht said. “I’m not drinking it.”

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