Discussion in 'Conservation, Fishery Politics and Management.' started by KV1, Aug 5, 2014.
really? This is WAY down stream already
I would personally love to see Bennet and Clark at the dike with their cheesy hardhats displaying how industry is so great for the environment and "British Columbians" now! Pathetic. I do however like the person that asked him to show his eyes you could tell he is panicking big time.
That's pretty much what I thought. I think the first nations are giving you the actual picture. Today's water result and media circus were just brutal. On the radio they had a scientist on after that explained where they are testing it hasn't reached yet...But its coming.... They say it's too dangerous to test Pollie Lake....What a bunch of BS.
This would not surprise me. Some of the metals they have dumped shown in the list GLG posted are VERY serious poisons. Cadmium and mercury in particular are very dangerous and lethal to fish in small concentrations down to parts per million. They have dumped thousand of Kgms into the tailings pond so if even a fraction of that makes it to the Fraser..........we could see entire runs wiped out.
As much as I am very concerned about this breach, I am equally concerned about a lot of the sensationalist TMZ style reporting going on and I'm afraid some of the FN Band Chiefs (Politicians) are milking this to further their cause of limiting access to what they believe is their territory.
That's a pretty interesting little poster, I am not quite buying it. Maybe the super high water temperature in the Fraser had more to to with salmon falling apart. Yes the spill was large but the the water mass which it spilled into is many times larger. I want to see some cold hard facts propaganda will do nothing for the resources damaged by this incident. I am not condoning what has been done at the mine by any stretch but I am just not buying that all this crap has made it to lytton.......water from only flows out of the lake so fast people....
hmmmm...let's see.......tailing pond dam filled with millions of gallons of effluent containing highly toxic and carcinogenic metals breaks and discharges same into streams and rivers...
Nightly news claims water tested by scientists and it is fit to drink according to provincial standards......
All is good in paradise and no problem.........
Drink up and eat your fish......
and if you believe what they told you.........then we need to check the acceptable provincial standards right away.......or fire some scientists......
I agree with mikep. I hate that they spilled but I hate that neither side can be truthful. Damage at that distance already is an impossibility. And the sheer volume of water will have diluted it. It is catastrophic but most damage will be near the spill site and will lessen the farther it flows. It will be a long time until it is gone from the lake and I doubt they will make them dredge very deep if at all. Right now nobody knows the effects. The timing sure couldn't have been worse though.
Pretty dire look there seafever. I wish i could come up with a different outcome but it doesnt even seem like they have any sort of grasp re the severity of the situation.. Good thing salmon are somewhat resilient..
I seem to recall a episode of the simpsons when a three eyed fish was perfectly safe to eat. I think its only fair that the people that are saying there is nothing wrong with the water take a big glass and drink some for the cameras. This case is buried and gone corruption at its finest all that's left is to hide the money!
This has to rank up there with one on the most serious disasters of its type ever in North America. Hate to see it as that area is beautiful and well know for its fishing and hunting and I have a lot of great memories doing so. It will be interesting to track the resident cancer rates over the next 10 to 20 years.
Who Pays for Catastrophes? Mining Firms Enjoy Double Standard
In BC, miners not subject to recent government requirements of oil pipeline builders.
In the wake of the Mount Polley tailings pond breach that released 10 million cubic metres of water into a creek in B.C.'s Cariboo region, one critic says the mining industry has the "most out-of-touch" emergency response regulations of any resource extraction industry, including oil and gas.
Amy Crook, executive director of B.C.'s Fair Mining Collaborative, said Imperial Metals Ltd. was likely not required to put aside any money in case of a spill.
She said the provincial government requires mining companies to post reclamation bonds -- money to be used for cleaning up mines before they are shut down. But that money cannot necessarily be used for emergency spill cleanup.
"To my knowledge, there's not a separate bond required by the province to be set aside as a spill response fund," she said, adding that the oil and gas industry is required to post bonds for spills.
Crook said that mining companies do have to train employees to deal with spills that occur on-site, like oil leaks from broken equipment.
But she said there is no provincial requirement that mining companies draft emergency response plans for spills of this size.
"It's a lack of regulation and a lack of will," she said. "This industry seems to be extremely resistant to change, and has enormous political clout."
Crook said the mining industry has been operating under the assumption that spills like the Mount Polley incident can't happen.
'Urgent need to reform'
Canada's mining industry has a long history of failing to clean up its own messes.
A 2012 report from the University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre found that the public often ends up paying to clean up mining contamination.
It calculated that taxpayers provided $69 million for cleanup of pollution from B.C.'s Britannia Mine, and almost $400 million to clean up the Giant Mine in the Northwest Territories.
"Human beings make mistakes. Accidents do happen," said Calvin Sandborn, the report's editor. "[Mining companies] should be stocking away adequate money to pay for the cleanup."
The report found that there is an "urgent need to reform" the mining industry's regulatory system. In addition to a requirement that mining companies pay the full cost of spill cleanup, it recommended that the mining industry fund a program to "provide compensation for victims of mine pollution."
Risk versus benefit
But not everyone believes this type of requirement is realistic.
Demanding that companies have enough insurance or bonds to cover the cost of every possible incident could be very onerous, according to Kenneth Green, a director at the Fraser Institute.
"How much risk and damage are you willing to accept?" he said. "We're never going to live in a risk-free world. A risk-free world is a benefit-free world."
Green said Imperial Metals should have to pay for this cleanup, but added that "the bright side is that nature is unbelievably resilient."
'There will be permanent damage'
Still, the apparent lack of emergency response regulations for B.C.'s mining industry stands in contrast with two of B.C.'s five conditions for approval of the Northern Gateway pipeline -- requirements for world-leading oil spill response systems for marine and land-based spills.
Adam Olsen, interim leader of the B.C. Green Party, said British Columbians need to be able to trust that their government is being consistent across the board.
"If we require that pipelines have a world-class spill response plan, then mining should as well," he said.
But some believe that stricter cleanup regulations are not all that is needed.
"This disaster is of a scope and scale that cannot be contained," said Jens Wieting, a campaigner with the B.C. Sierra Club. "There will be permanent damage no matter how quickly people react."
Wieting said to focus on the spill's aftermath is to ignore the most important issue. He believes tailings ponds at other mines could also be at risk of breaching.
"The most urgent step right now is to do everything possible to prevent more accidents of this type," he said.
Wieting said he hopes the government will demand that other mines publish reports on the state of their tailings ponds as a response to the Mount Polley spill.
The Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas has not yet responded to a request for comment. A spokesperson from Imperial Metals also declined to comment, but wrote in an email that the company is holding a community meeting in Likely, B.C. tonight and will probably begin responding to requests from the media tomorrow. [Tyee]
Maura Forrest is a science-focused journalist pursuing a Masters degree at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism. She is completing a practicum with The Tyee.
That poster is a typical money grab tactic, no way it would have been down that far let alone having those impacts already. If it were the banks would be littered with dead fish with skin falling off all the way from the breach, and the surface of quesnel lake would be covered with dead fish. If all that was happening we'd see it plastered over every news source.
If anybody is going to drink that water, they better mix it with whiskey at 99/1. Whiskey being 99.
Major Imperial Metals shareholder, billionaire N. Murray Edwards, held private fundraiser for Clark
By Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun August 9, 2014
N. Murray Edwards, the controlling shareholder of Imperial Metals Corp. which owns the Mount Polley mine, helped organize a $1-million private fundraiser in Calgary last year to bolster B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s re-election bid.
Edwards, an oilpatch billionaire and chairman of Canadian Natural Resources, was among several Alberta power-brokers involved in the fundraiser, reportedly held to back the continuation of Clark’s “free-enterprise government.” According to polls at the time, the B.C. New Democrats were poised to win the May 13 election.
The private affair came just three months after Clark, in an address to the University of Calgary’s school of public policy in October 2012, hailed Edwards as a “great Calgarian” and credited him with helping to boost B.C.’s economic development.
“Mining is an area where we have set some pretty ambitious targets. We’re planning to build 17 new and expanded mines by 2015. Mining revenues have grown by 20 per cent to $8.6 billion since we introduced our Jobs Plan last year, and we’ve done it with the highest standard of sustainable mining in the world,” Clark said in the October 2012 address.
“A significant part of our progress in British Columbia comes from people like Murray Edwards, it comes from investors and people who are located right here in Calgary.”
Edwards, Canada’s 18th richest person with a net worth of about $2.2 billion according to Forbes, is linked to six corporations that have donated a total of $436,227 in campaign contributions to the B.C. Liberal party over the past nine years, according to Elections B.C.
That includes $153,480 from Canadian Natural Resources, where he is chairman, as well as $131,390 from Imperial Metals, which owns both Red Chris, a $500-million copper-gold mine under construction, and the Mount Polley mine, where a tailings dam collapse this week has led to a water ban and potential contamination of Quesnel Lake and Quesnel River. Edwards owns, directly and indirectly, 36 per cent of Imperial Metals shares.
Edwards is also linked to Ensign Drilling, which donated $15,000 to the B.C. Liberals, as well as Edco Capital Corp. ($5,000); Penn West Petroleum ($65,835); Resorts of the Canadian Rockies ($23,522); and Mount Polley Mining ($46,720).
About 75 corporations have given $100,000 or more to the Liberals over the past nine years, but the donations linked to Edwards are just a fraction of the amount given by the Liberals’ most generous donors, such as Teck ($1.7 million), New Car Dealers ($822,000) or Encana ($791,000).
Ben Chin, executive director of communications with the B.C. premier’s office, said Clark first met Edwards two years ago after she became premier and he helped her make connections in Calgary.
He said he didn’t believe Clark had spoken with Edwards in the past three days, following the tailings dam collapse, but had been slated to meet with company CEO Brian Kynoch after she arrived in Likely Thursday.
That meeting didn’t happen, but the premier and Mines Minister Bill Bennett have made it clear that the company is fully responsible for the cleanup as well as fines or penalties, Chin said.
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Anna Johnston: Mount Polley mine tailings spill highlights risks of deregulation
by Anna Johnston on Aug 7, 2014 at 2:11 pm
The Mount Polley mine disaster is a sobering reminder of the need for strong environmental laws.
Cariboo Regional District
"Streamlining environmental regulatory review" and "reducing the regulatory burden on industry" are among the federal and B.C. provincial governments’ hottest buzzwords.
Environmentalist credits regional district for filming tailings flowing from Mount Polley mine
Mount Polley tailings pond breach could result in First Nations legal action
As the Mount Polley mine tailings lake breach that occurred on Monday (August 4) demonstrates, however, deregulation of industrial activities that impact the environment is a gamble that can have devastating outcomes for local communities and the environment.
The magnitude of the impacts of the Mount Polley breach are still being assessed and it could be years before they are fully understood. What is immediately certain is that there will be profound and long-lasting effects on local, regional, and provincial economies, on livelihoods and communities, on fish, wildlife and ecosystems, and on British Columbians’ trust in regulators.
British Columbia has an economy, not to mention hundreds of communities, that depend on a healthy environment. It is rich in natural resources like fish, water, and forests, which provide billions of dollars in direct and indirect economic benefits to its citizens.
Project proposals abound in B.C., including for LNG facilities, pipelines, fish farms, and mines. Last week, the proposed KSM copper and gold mine received a green light from provincial regulators and now awaits federal approval. KSM would store 63 million cubic metres of tailings water, over a dozen times more than the slurry that spewed out from Mount Polley.
Risk is inherent in activities that impact the environment. From the threat of a dam breach, to an inevitable oil tanker spill, to cumulative contamination of wild salmon by fish farm pesticides, the environmental and economic costs of these impacts are ultimately borne by citizens, and in particular by the people who live and work in nearby communities.
To optimize the benefits of projects and minimize their risks, governments need strong environmental laws, combined with robust information and sufficient monitoring and staffing to ensure compliance. Canadians have a legitimate expectation that when government agencies approve projects like mines, dams, pipelines, and fish farms, they will safeguard key environmental, economic, social, heritage, cultural, and health values, and ensure adverse impacts are avoided or mitigated.
Despite this obligation, the federal government has been steadily divesting itself of responsibility for reducing the risks of those projects to Canadians.
In 2012, it enacted two omnibus budget bills that repealed and amended several of Canada’s oldest and strongest environmental laws. It watered down the Fisheries Act, significantly weakening protection of fish habitat and outright eliminating protection for some fish, including species at risk.
It also replaced Canada’s environmental assessment law with a new, weaker law that resulted in the cancellation of nearly 3,000 environmental reviews across the country. Projects that no longer require federal review include two open-pit coal mines near Elkford and Sparwood, B.C., an LNG facility near Kitimat, a mine extension in New Brunswick, and, somewhat ominously in the present context, a tailings pond and treatment facility, and expansions of two uranium tailings ponds, in Saskatchewan.
The rollbacks continue. Changes to the federal Navigable Waters Protection Act that were brought into force this year removed protection for over 99 percent of Canada’s lakes and rivers. Expected sometime this month are regulations that will make life easier for the aquaculture industry, but not for wild fish, by relaxing the regulation of the dumping of aquatic drugs and pesticides into wild fish habitat.
Touted as benefitting Canada’s economy, the federal environmental law rollbacks simply shift the load onto citizens, whose tax dollars will pay for emergency responses, cleanup costs, long-term impacts on water and fish, and related litigation and settlements. For local residents whose drinking water, recreation, and livelihoods are lost or damaged, the cost is even greater.
Environmental disasters like Mount Polley are a sobering reminder of the need for strong federal environmental laws to protect B.C. communities, the environment, and our economy from the risk of harm.
Anna Johnston is staff counsel with West Coast Environmental Law.
Mine, Dam Inspections Dropped Since 2001
Documents show government aware of dam safety concerns, including tailings ponds.
By David P. Ball, Yesterday, TheTyee.ca
B.C.'s minister of energy and mines has vowed to get to the bottom of the Mount Polley mine disaster, but insisted that provincial mine inspections are "as frequent today as they were five years ago." They may be, but they are about half as frequent compared to before the BC Liberal government came into power in 2001 and reduced the rate of such inspections.
Minister Bill Bennett's statements on Wednesday afternoon followed Monday's massive breach of 10 million cubic metres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of solids dumped into the watershed -- from Imperial Metals' massive tailings impoundment which Environment Canada lists as containing high levels of mercury, arsenic, cobalt and other toxic heavy metals.
Government test results for water downstream released Thursday afternoon did not show unsafe contamination levels -- although some critics questioned whether testing was conducted into potential toxic concentrations in the tailings pond's solid sediments, which settle at lake and river bottoms.
According to the most recent available Chief Inspector of Mines annual report, from 2012, Bennett's statement about inspections appears true. Assuming the number of site visits has held steady since then, when inspectors made 1,163 inspections that indeed represents a return to close-to-2009 levels.
However, scan back a bit further to 2001 when the BC Liberals took office and questions emerge about why Bennett chose 2009 as his starting point.
In 2001 there were nearly double the number of mine inspections: 2,021. The year after, the number dropped to 1,496 -- nearly 30 per cent more than 2012 -- before reaching a 2004 decade low of 399 visits.
Mine inspector visits chart
In a press conference in nearby Williams Lake, Bennett told reporters the government will "make sure that it doesn't happen again."
He dismissed concerns that the disaster may have been linked to provincial staff reductions, in particular for dam inspectors and site audits.
"The inspections that are done on mine sites are no different today than they were five years ago," Bennett told reporters. "I know that between 2001 and 2003 that a lot of people were laid off in the B.C. government, it was a cost-cutting exercise.
"I also know that resources in this ministry came back up to 2001 levels by 2009 at the latest. I know that the inspections of tailings ponds are as frequent today as they were five years ago. This is not an issue of not having enough inspectors on the ground."
Ministry of Environment memo flagged dam concerns
But inside the Ministry of Environment itself -- the department tasked with overseeing non-mining dams in the province -- a 2010 memorandum suggests that reduced staffing for dam inspection more broadly was flagged as a concern by senior officials, alongside suggestions that inspections lacked consistency. And even though inspections on mine tailings dams are delegated to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, a senior engineer wrote to the deputy environment minister specifically citing risks around both tailings impoundments and earthen dams of the type built at Mount Polley mine.
In that memorandum, dated Sept. 22, 2010, a senior department engineer warned the deputy minister that the province's Dam Safety Program continued to be understaffed and would lead to "negative results." The letter specifically names mine tailings ponds as a risk.
The letter was sent from engineer Glen Davidson, comptroller of water rights for B.C.'s Ministry of Environment, to then-deputy minister Doug Konkin -- a veteran civil servant who retired on Apr. 2, 2013 from his subsequent post as deputy minister of forests, lands and natural resource operations, where he served since 2011. Under ex-Premier Gordon Campbell's election in 2001, he also served as deputy minister of the environment, and has been credited with implementing a controversial 2009 move to end the ministry's ability to halt industrial developments.
Davidson's letter expressed concern over staff cuts and the fact that the province had moved away from "audits" of dams towards relying on private operators to uphold the rules.
Initial staff cuts after the BC Liberals' 2001 election were followed by further reductions once the Dam Safety Program was "transformed" to the "results-based model in part due to the excessive resources required to maintain the existing approach," he wrote.
"After the transformation the Ministry assigned approximately 8.5 full-time equivalents (FTEs) to this program, however this number has fallen to 5.5 in recent years," the late 2010 letter stated.
The water comptroller also issued a series of recommendations to his ministry regarding the safety of nearly 2,000 dams across the province. Although the letter acknowledged Ministry of Environment had signed an agreement delegating tailings pond safety to B.C.'s mines department, Davidson warned that "the public is not likely to make the distinction between one of these structures and a regulated dam, so a consistent approach to risk ranking and mitigation could be advantageous."
Mine tailings impoundments, he added while discussing about a previous dam breach, were among "several other water related risks that could attract future attention from a similar failure."
The letter concludes by recommending a more "consistent" approach to both types of dam, despite the jurisdictional responsibility being split between two ministries. It is unknown whether his recommendations were heeded, and neither ministry responded to questions about the memo by press time.
'Shift in Ministry staff role'
Davidson recounted that, since the early 2000s, the province's "new dam safety program is 'results- based' with considerable reliance on professionals and dam owners to maintain the safety of these structures," the memo stated. "Fundamental to this new program was the shift in Ministry staff role from inspection functions to audit and education functions.
"The primary responsibility for the safety and operation of these structures rests with the dam owners. Under this new approach it is anticipated that there will be a certain number of negative results, which in the field of dam safety are represented by dam failures or incidents. On average we have been experiencing several incidents and at least one dam failure in British Columbia annually."
The memorandum is cited in a government report published the following month, in response to B.C.'s Review of the Testalinden Dam Failure. That review followed a June 2010 accident near Oliver, B.C. that saw a privately owned earthen dam fail -- a similar structure as Imperial Metals' -- "causing a debris and mud torrent that severely impacted a number of homes and an agricultural area," the report states.
A subsequent Oct. 2010 response to that review from the Ministry of Environment nonetheless issues recommendations related to mine tailings dams.
"The heights of some tailings dams are continually increased to accommodate additional tailings from mining operations," the report states, listing "possible areas for change" as including "specifying how often surveillance on tailing dams should be conducted and "linking the frequency of tailing dam inspection reporting by a professional engineer to risk classification."
'Government has to be proactive with other mining sites': watchdog
For Dermod Travis, executive director of the transparency watchdog IntegrityBC, such documents reveal the government may have been aware of safety concerns around tailings dams for years, in addition to a series of more recent warnings specifically related to the Mount Polley site.
In light of Monday's accident, Travis argued that it's even more "incumbent on the government to be 100 per cent transparent on this particular tailings pond going back to the day that approval was given to the mine site and tailings pond," he told The Tyee.
"How many of those recommendations were actually adopted?" he asked. "The public has the right, because of the disaster, to know all the various communications between the government and mine related to the disaster and to the tailings pond literally from day one."
Despite Bennett's assertions of adequate inspection levels and funding in the province, Travis said the disaster is an "opportunity" to look at "comparable tailings ponds" province-wide to ensure B.C.'s regulations are reliable to prevent future accidents.
"The government has to be proactive with the other mining sites," he said. "A lot of tailings ponds are coming to the end of what was estimated to be their natural lives. There has to be a review of the regulatory process for the industry to put in better safeguards."
But one area in which the 2010 memo pushes for "consistency" is between the different oversight provided by the mine and environment ministries. Travis said B.C. should ensure that the latter department can assess environmental risk of all dams "free from interference from the Ministry of Energy and Mines," which he argued has proven itself to be primarily focused on promoting private industrial interests.
"They have distinct, separate mandates," Travis said. "Those two mandates are going to naturally come into conflict with each other, and the public has a right to know if the environment is being protected before new mining developments are pushed through."
'Make sure it doesn't happen again': mining minister
Minister Bennett said the province's investigation of what went wrong with the Mount Polley mine tailings impoundment will "take weeks if not months," but promised B.C. "will learn lessons from this, and we will apply those lessons to other mines in this province."
"If there was something that we could have done in the ministry differently, I will acknowledge that and take responsibility for that," he added. "If the company has made some mistakes and are the cause of what happened, they will have to acknowledge that and they will have to bear the cost and responsibility for that. There's no question that, even though this is unexpected and unprecedented, it has happened once and we have to make sure that it doesn't happen again."
Neither Bennett nor the environment ministry could not reached for comment by press time.
RECREATIONAL - Salmon
FN0753-RECREATIONAL - Salmon - Region 5A - Quesnel and Cariboo Rivers - Salmon Fishery Closure
Due to the breach in a mine tailings dam near Likely, BC, effective immediately
there is no fishing for salmon in the following waters:
-Cariboo River from the confluence of the Quesnel River to the confluence of
Seller Creek; and
-Quesnel River downstream of Poquette Creek.
Separate names with a comma.