B.C. landowner in standoff with mine, governments to clean contaminated farmland
'We really want to get back to farming'
A landowner in Salmo, B.C. whose property was contaminated by a mine and a landfill site says he's in a standoff with the mine and the governments responsible.
For 20 years, Martin Ross said he's been trying to reach a deal to clean up the farmland, which has been in his family for years.
With no deal in sight, Ross says he may go to court to force the mine or government to remediate the land.
Ross's great-grandfather settled the land, located in the West Kootenay, but over the years a historic mine leached toxins into the soil.
Dump leaks chemicals too
As well, the regional district operated a dump, located just above the old mine, which also leaked chemicals onto his land.
The property is now so contaminated he can't live on it. Ross, a pilot, moved his family to Dubai years ago. All that's left now is an abandoned farmhouse.
"It's pretty sad, just an old house rotting away, waiting for something to happen," said Ross.
He said he's tried negotiating with the Ministry of Environment and Mines as well as the regional government and the mining company — Teck Mining — now responsible for the former lead and zinc mine.
Ross said he wants the land cleaned up, so it can be farmed once again.
But he's been unable to reach an agreement with Teck Mining or the regional or provincial governments.
He says they won't clean up his land, and he has refused to sell.
The province and regional district did not return calls to CBC.
A Teck spokesman, Doug Brown, said there is a negotiation going on, and there has been for years.
Mine says it offered to clean land
"We recognize the impact of historical mining activity on this property dating back to the 50s, 60s and 70s," Brown said, noting that previous mine owners were responsible for the leaching.
"We've been trying to work cooperatively with the current landowner to address that for a number of years.
"That work has included extensive sampling and studies and various offers to remediate the property at no cost to the owners.
He added: "After a number of years, we just haven't been able to come to an agreement with the owner to move that work forward."
Ross disputes this version, saying Teck has made no such offer to clean the land.
He's said his next move is court action.
"We really want to get back to farming," he said.
"We could have sold out, but we would have done that early on . We've just stuck with it, because we want to see the right thing done."
With files from Bob Keating