British Columbia

First Nation outraged by permit allowing Mount Polley tailing release

The Mount Polley mine, which was responsible for 2014 environmental disaster when its tailings pond burst, was recently granted a permit to drain effluent from its new tailings pit.

Mine responsible for 2014 environmental disaster granted permit to release effluent into Quesnel Lake

Contents from a tailings pond is pictured going down the Hazeltine Creek into Quesnel Lake near the town of Likely, B.C. on August, 5, 2014. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Members of a B.C. First Nation are speaking out against the province for allowing the Mount Polley mine to drain effluent from a tailings pit into Quesnel Lake.

Secwepemc Nation spokesperson Kanahus Manuel is outraged by the province's decision, and worried for the people who use Quesnel Lake.
"This effluent and this treated water that Imperial Metals is discharging into Quesnel Lake is not meeting the drinking water guidelines," she says. "It is going to be flowing right down into the Fraser River which 63 per cent of B.C. depends on for our watershed." 

The Environment Ministry approved a short-term permit Tuesday to allow the discharge from the mine tailings pit which is forecast to reach capacity in April, 2016. 

Mount Polley was the site of an environmental disaster in August of 2014 when its original tailing pond burst spilling 24 million cubic metres of mine waste and water into nearby lakes and rivers.

The environment ministry says the current discharge will be treated and then allowed to flow into the lake at a depth of 30 to 40 meters below the surface.

"The province would not grant a water discharge permit from a mine site unless the province was absolutely certain that the water being discharged would meet the federal drinking water guidelines," said B.C. Energy and Mines minister Bill Bennett. 

When asked for clarification, the ministry said the water from the tailings pit is expected to meet drinking water standards 'at the edge of a dilution zone', which is 100 metres from the discharge point in Quesnel Lake. The statement further noted that the water will be discharged at a depth "well out of the range of drinking water intakes"

With files from Brady Strachan