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October 27, 2017 5:55 pm

Quesnel Lake Residents Vehemently Oppose Amended Mine Permit

Saturday, April 22, 2017 @ 6:59 AM

Quesnel Lake, B.C. – photos courtesy Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake

Prince George, B.C. – Concerned residents of the Quesnel Lake area are expressing alarm at the recent decision of the B.C. Environment Ministry to grant Mount Polley Mining Corporation a permit to pipe diluted wastewater directly into Quesnel Lake.

In what has been called the worst mining disaster in Canadian history, 25 million cubic metres of contaminated waste from the Mount Polley mine made its way down Hazeltine Creek and into Quesnel Lake and other waterways following the breach of a tailings pond at the mine site on August 4th, 2014.

Researchers at UNBC’s Quesnel River Research Centre and counterparts from UBC, the University of Lethbridge and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are conducting detailed sampling and analysis of the heavy metals and sediment taken from the lake to determine the extent of damage resulting from the breach and spill, but they stress that it will take several years to get a full picture of the damage done.

In the meantime, the Ministry of Environment has now granted Mount Polley Mining a wastewater discharge permit to send diluted wastewater from the mine’s drainage ditches 45 metres deep into the lake.

Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake is a group of residents and landowners who live and recreate right on the lake.  Spokesperson Christine McLean says “we’re in a community called Mitchell Bay.  We’re the closest to where the actual tailings in the lake are, where Hazeltine Creek comes in.”  She says “there’s about 70 on our list today.  About 35 to 40 are actual landowners, residents on the lake, and we’ve spent the last year-and-a-half just monitoring what’s going in the lake, the characteristics of the effluent, trends, just tracking it.”  She says all of the people get their drinking water from Quesnel Lake.

McLean says the group is “trying to hold the mine and the ministry’s feet to the fire and asking them to explain everything that they’re doing, because we don’t agree with any of the tailings water or tailings being in the lake.  We don’t agree that this permit that was issued last week should have been approved.”

“We put up a billboard on Highway 97 in December of last year to try to get community support in opposition of that, and we do whatever we can to try to have our voice heard.”  She says they are also in close contact with MiningWatch Canada, FN WARM (First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining), the Likely Chamber of Commerce and other concerned parties.

Photo above, right is of a gorge created on Hazeltine Creek by the tailings flow in Aug. 2014.  Hazeltine was a 3 metre wide creek before Aug 4, 2014.

McLean says Mt. Polley “are now allowed, with the permit, to pipe somewhat treated water directly from their treatment plant—this is site contact water, it’s not production water at this point in time—right into Quesnel Lake.  Also with this new permit they’ve increased the characteristics of the mining effluent, the metals, hugely.  We’re not happy about that either.”

McLean says under the original permit issued in the 1990s the mine was not allowed to discharge water from its site into area waterways “and now they’ve got a permit to discharge directly from the mine site into Quesnel Lake.”

She makes it clear that her group is not opposed to mining per se and understands the significance of area residents having jobs and earning a living at the mine.  “This group is not against mining, we understand that the jobs are very important to people in this area.  However, I don’t see this permit and this action as being responsible mining.  It’s not responsible of this industry, it’s not responsible of this government to allow something like this to happen.”

“Quesnel Lake is one of the deepest fjord lakes in the world.  It was pristine, that was one of the words they used for Quesnel Lake all the time.  We bought here because we don’t want to live on the Shuswap where you have to shower when you get out of the water because of, well they blame it on the ducks.  I don’t.  We bought here because we thought in 50 years our grandchildren could still swim and fish and enjoy this pristine water.”

Another view of the destruction remaining near Hazeltine Creek taken on October 18, 2016.

“We’re in what’s called the west basin and that’s where the tailings dam failure happened and the tailings are all sitting in the bottom of the lake.  The Mount Polley mine is doing water testing but now, with this new permit and with some changes that they made in December, we were getting weekly reports on what the characteristics of the metals were that they were discharging.  Now we’re going to get that every three or four months.  It’s going to come out through the Public Liaison committee quarterly.”

She says it’s not the government that is issuing the information through those reports.  “The mine is delivering it, and that’s the other problem is that the mine delivers us all of our information basically.  It’s called self-monitoring.”

McLean says her group is skeptical about that in the wake of the 2014 spill disaster.  “They were in charge of that, it should never have happened.  So we should just trust that they’re doing the job now?  I don’t think so.”

“We want tighter regulations.  I know MiningWatch Canada and some others are trying to change some of the regulations and rules but this self-monitoring?  It doesn’t breed trust in us, in any case.”

McLean says “that is how the people who live on this lake feel (about the new permit), like almost speechless.  I was recently at a gathering over at Horsefly Lake, which is very close to us and a community that we’re very attached to as well and the people there are speechless as well.”

“This would not be happening on Shuswap Lake or Lake Okanagan or Osoyoos Lake.  It’s happening here, I believe, because we’ve only got five or six hundred people on this lake.  It’s remote, and it’s really sad, just devastating that they do this and we don’t have a big enough constituency of people to stop them.”

Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake (CCQL) says under the amended permit, the approved discharge amounts are a maximum of 52,000 m3 per day (about 21 Olympic-sized swimming pools per day) or, based on permitted annual average, a total of 53,000,000 m3 over a 5-year period.  In its response to the permit approval CCQL states “And considering Mount Polley Mining Corporation has been discharging up to 10,000,000 m3 per year of effluent since the breach, this total is approaching over 4 times the original amount dumped into Quesnel Lake during the Aug. 4, 2014 disaster.”

CCQL demands the Province enlists independent weekly monitoring of Quesnel Lake and surrounding waters, completed remediation of Hazeltine Creek, Polley Lake and Quesnel Lake, installation of effective water treatment and no increase in the levels of permitted metals and other characteristics in the mine waste discharge.


Pretty ridiculous a big mining corporation can get a permit to dump effluent into a lake like Quesnel lake with all its’ recreational uses and yet a free miner isn’t even allowed to put a small river sluice in a creek (even a runoff creek) because of the sediment that may be created. The rules are definitely on the side of money.

    You cannot even have livestock crossing a creek without a fine imposed. Never mind this blatant act of dumping crap into a pristine watershed. Who was the dodo in the LIEBERAL GOVT. to sign off on this one.BYE BYE KRUSTY…your lying cheating corrupt days are done come MAY 9TH.

Happy Earth day CCQL ! Are you going to vote Christy ?

What could be more insane…I can’t believe the stupidity of this government. Please! Someone wake me up from this nightmare

    Do you mean having a government owned and operated by the corporate sector and an electorate that swollows Chrissy’s pixie dust ? That would make more than half of us insane or just plain stupid . We’ll need to change the Moto to ” Beautifulish British Columbia “if corps buy her another four years this time again .

After what happened its just hard to believe the Government would allow this, there has to be another way but again its most likely about cost and much easer to just pipe it into the lake

[Researchers at UNBC’s Quesnel River Research Centre and counterparts from UBC, the University of Lethbridge and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans are conducting detailed sampling and analysis of the heavy metals and sediment taken from the lake to determine the extent of damage resulting from the breach and spill, but they stress that it will take several years to get a full picture of the damage done.]

The tailings water was almost drinking quality and after dilution in the lake what is the metals count now in the lake compared to natural. As for sediment what is the comparison between natural sediment inflow and the mine?

It seems predetermined there is damage and with more research and money they will find it, really they will. I would think after two years of research if there was a risk using the lake water there would be warnings.

I am not saying there may not be a problem, just have an issue with the research. needs to be more disclosure.

    Very easy to see the comparison in sediment flow when you had a creek that was 4ft wide in some places and look at the mess you have now.

      That mess will grow over. Messes like that happen in nature all the time, spring freshets, fall rains. Ever notice the muddy Fraser?

      Not saying there was no issue but twos years on no real problem found.

    Problem is Mt Polly uses float cells and heavy metals to refine the gold. Doesn’t matter how much you treat the tailings there will still be trace amounts of arsenic and other chemicals. Yet I will get fined for having placer tailings withing 30 feet of high water mark.

The citizens of this province need to stand in front of the bulldozers and prevent this from happening. You know christy and her right hand dweeb coleman will not stop this bs. It’s time to take our province back.

Remember to ask any liberal candidate why this was okayed ? then ask how much the mining company donated to the liberal party.

The government is pitching the old.. Dilution is the Solution to Pollution.. but you know what..its only an immediate false fix… you are still dumping poison into the lake.. Water is one thing humans will always need.

So Nestle is basically getting our water for free to sell back to us.. and now this.. Doesnt Family First ring a bell.. whos family Crusty ???

    Imperial metals paid Christy $195,010.00 . But independent economist Robyn Allan, who has analyzed figures used by Imperial Metals, said in an interview that, despite those assurances by Environment Minister Mary Polak, taxpayers are picking up almost $40 million of the clean up tab, amounting to more than half of the response cost.

    That figure is made up of $23.6 million in tax refunds for Imperial Metals and $15.5 million in direct costs incurred by government departments over the past two-and-a-half years, said Allan, former president of ICBC.

    “Recoveries for these charges are a paltry $625,000. This is because, under B.C.’s spill cost recovery regulation, cost recovery is severely limited,” she said.

    Imperial Metals estimated clean up costs at $67.4 million, a figure that has not changed in more than two years

      Best government money can buy .

Effluent, waste, sewage treated and untreated are dumped into oceans, rivers, lakes every day and this incidents matters more, why?

Contributions are made to all parties by [evil corporations] and NGO’s, this one matter more, why?

Ever notice pictures from biased interests to the spill always show the empty pond in the foreground with the creek way off in the distance for dramatic effect. Well any lake emptied would look like a disaster. The creek well not so much that is why this dramatic angle is required.

    That doesn’t make it right. Victoria dumps sewage into the ocean. And that’s disgusting. But again the un-educated think all is fine. Ignorance to the highest standard. seamutt why don’t you drink nothing but what the mine wants discharge for a week. Then let’s see the results and sgatbuou have learned .

seamutt, the liberal/corporate apologist.

    Nope just using reason not irrational emotion.

Worst Mining disaster in Canadian History? I am sure the families of the 26 miners killed at the Westray mine would challenge that claim. Good grief people, no one died and most of it has already been cleaned up. Go have a look for yourself before you believe these rather dramatic claims.

What would weekly monitoring on a lake the size of Quesnel Lake tell you? Probably the same thing that is being reported by the company. I wonder why Mrs McLean doesn’t do some monitoring if she thinks she cannot trust the company? Also, check out Imperial Metals website, there is tons of info there, including photos.

Seamutt:”Effluent, waste, sewage treated and untreated are dumped into oceans, rivers, lakes every day and this incidents matters more, why?”

What a lame argument, especially on Earth Day! Mankind is irresponsibly dumping poisons into the above mentioned waters so it is alright to dump mine effluent into the lake?

BTW, I am appalled by the pictures of the devastation caused by the breach of the storage site! One would think that the mining company had used the last two years to start restoration, remove all the drift wood and begin replanting the creek’s banks!

Way to go! Despoil water, air and soil and then look (without!) success for another planet to ruin! Shame on us!

    Most pictures of the (devastation) generally always show the empty pond in the foreground to enhance the supposed devastation. There is remediation, planting and removal of the waste wood. A lot of work has been done.

      not nearly enough work has been done

Think Seamutt’s common sense approach is the right one. No problems since this unbelievably epic disaster, LOL. I’m sure our scientists, biologists will be keeping tabs on the lake.
We can all be appalled at pics but when you get down to the nuts and bolts and there’s no die off of plankton, other species in the lake for two years, it ain’t a problem.
When you look at places like Pinchi Lake, mining mercury in the 30’s, this ain’t no big deal.

    You volunteer to drink, cook and bathe with the water from the lake after many hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of the mine waste water have been dumped into it! Of course if you live here instead of on the lake it ain’t no big deal!

      Well no problem has been found with the lake water so far. To begin with the pond water was almost drinking quality.

This liberal government in BC is so corrupt that it would not surprise me if someone in the BC government got paid off some extra cash under the table to OK this mine permit. Some very good videos of MT Polley on You Tube.

We (mankind) have thoroughly polluted our environment, all in the name of money and “progress”. There are very few pristine watersheds left.
While I am no expert in mine tailings, I do know that this tailings pond is also a sewage dump for the mine…. and has been for many years. Mining operations inherently exposes deep buried natural toxins and heavy metals. Quesnel Lake is not the place tp dump this stuff. I have a difficult time believing that there has been no permanent damage caused in the breach.
SEAMUTT can keep defending Imp.Metals all he wants, I dont drink that koolaid. It is time that maybe the environment take precedence over the almighty buck. The mine has operated for years without this new permit. Why start allowing this now?

    I am not defending the mine just posting the facts as they stand so far. No one has yet refuted me with actual facts. Just look at the facts as they now stand without the irrational emotion.

We have to pay for our individual mess because as Christy says polluters pay ie carbon tax . Imperial metals et al get a free pass for destroying a whole watershed with a very little slap/touch on the wrist . I don’t mind paying my dues but it frosts my butt to see corps not pay their dues . Seems the folks that whine the loudest about the carbon tax are okay with corps not paying their right full shares . Corps want the rights of individuals but not the responsibility of an individual . But then they have premier pixie dust on their side . They know British Colombians will believe anything .

    Ataloss didn’t corps produce your solar cells? You invest in corps don’t you?

About that worst mining disaster in Canadian history, was anyone killed? How soon springhill and other disasters are forgotten. This event lucky turned out to be a rather benign event but hey it’s a story that needed hype from the media to sell.

This is an absolute outrage IMO. I remember Quesnel lake as one of the best fishing lakes in the world. It’s prestine water quality was world renown. Now how do we know the fish would even be safe to eat? The levels of heavy metals accumulating in the fish even at small levels is an environmental tragedy. It’s outrageous that the government would allow mining effluent to be directly discharged into the lake.

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