B.C. Ministry of Environment

B.C. Quietly Grants Mount Polley Mine Permit to Pipe Mine Waste Directly Into Quesnel Lake

Mount Polley Tailings Pond Collapse

The B.C. Ministry of Environment has quietly granted the Mount Polley Mining Corporation permission to drain mining waste directly into Quesnel Lake, B.C.’s deepest fjord lake and a source of drinking water for residents of Likely, B.C., as part of a “long-term water management plan.”

The wastewater discharge permit comes nearly three years after the collapse of the Mount Polley mine tailings pond spilled an estimated 25 million cubic metres of mining waste into Quesnel Lake, in what is considered the worst mining disaster in Canadian history. 

No charges and no fines have been laid for the spill that cost B.C. taxpayers an estimated $40 million in cleanup costs and that B.C.’s chief mine inspector, Al Hoffman, found was the result of “poor practices” and “non-compliances.” 

Some critics feel the new wastewater discharge permit simply grants Mount Polley the permission to continue polluting Quesnel Lake.

Rio Tinto Alcan Allowed to Increase Sulphur Dioxide Pollution 56 Per Cent in Kitimat: Environmental Appeal Board Ruling

The Environmental Appeal Board recently ruled B.C. was in its right to grant Rio Tinto Alcan a permit to increase sulphur dioxide emissions (SO2) from its 60-year old Alcan aluminum smelter in Kitimat.

The permit, granted in 2013, allowed Rio Tinto to increase sulphur dioxide emission as part of the company’s modernization of the aging Kitimat aluminum smelter. The modernization project, which nearly doubles the plant’s production, decreases the release of greenhouse gas emissions but raises sulphur dioxide emissions by 56 per cent.

The B.C. Ministry of Environment granted Rio Tinto permission to modernize the smelter but did not require the company to install scrubbers, commonly used in smelters to remove airborne pollutants from emissions.

Two Kitimat elementary teachers, Lis Stannus and Emily Toews, challenged the permit through the B.C. Environmental Appeal Board, saying the increased pollution would negatively and unnecessarily impact Kitimat residents.

Sulphur dioxide is a pungent pollutant released from the combustion of fossil fuels, such as the petroleum coke used to smelt aluminum. It is known to irritate skin, mucous membranes and lungs. Exposure to sulphur dioxide is also known to aggravate the respiratory systems of asthmatics, children and the elderly.

Stannus said she is disappointed in the December 23 ruling.

Being a teacher of young children I see a lot of respiratory illness as it is,” Stannus told DeSmog Canada. “I will also now question whether any respiratory problems are a result of these increased emissions.”

Subscribe to B.C. Ministry of Environment