Water Concerns Remain Two Years on from Mt. Polley Breach
Likely, B.C. – It was exactly two years ago today British Columbia suffered one of its most devastating environmental disasters – the tailings pond breach at Mt Polley Mine in Likely.
On August 4, 2014, a partial breach of the tailings pond dam sent millions of cubic metres of water and sludge into lakes, rivers and creeks in the area.
A lot has happened since – the most notable being the Province’s decision to issue a permit to allow the mine to return to full production in June.
But how is life today for residents who continue to live in the area?
“Well it’s returned too normal for the most part but the residents of Likely still have concerns, a lot of concerns, with respect to water quality,” says Cariboo Regional District Chair Al Richmond. “In particular they’re concerned about sediment that’s on the bottom of the lake and would like answers as to what the long-terms impacts will be.”
He says a lot of the concern centers around the discharge of the treated water coming from the mine operation down in Hazeltine Creek and being discharged into Quesnel Lake.
“They continue to work actively as do we with the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Mines to bring forward those concerns to the government and to the mining company (Imperial Metals) to try and find some resolve and provide the community with some assurances.”
Richmond says the mine has been doing its part to mitigate those concerns though.
“I suggest you go down and look at the work that this group of miners did to restore Hazeltine Creek as best they could to save fish habitat. There’s more work to be done but if you were to see a before and after photo of the work done – in excess of $62 million has been spent on restoration so the mine has stepped up.”
Despite all the work the company has done he says concerns remain about the future of the salmon run.
“We have been lobbying the Province and the federal government to look at some programs for the research station operated by UNBC at the mouth of the Quesnel River to use that for at least a couple of fish cycles and salmon to determine what the impacts may or may not be on the salmon run.”
He says another important sector for the local economy – tourism – seems to have bounced back.
“Indicators from our tourism association is that tourists have returned and there’s efforts being put forth by the Province to support advertising the area and showcasing the area,” says Richmond. “It’s still open for tourism, it’s a great place to go.”
Above all, Richmond says locals seem pleased the mine, a major employer in the area, has returned to full production.
“For the most part people are supportive of the mine continuing to operate and see it back in operation.”