There go those fish and everything thats coming upstream is dead!

Discussion in 'Conservation, Fishery Politics and Management.' started by KV1, Aug 5, 2014.

  1. KV1

    KV1 Active Member

    I unfortunately have lost faith or hope in all government until one of them....any of them go to prison and I don't mean country club or suspended sentence I mean the same sentence that the public would get for fraud,forgery,conspiracy,theft or any other crime they get away with. I can choose to spread the word though and when I see any politician in public I do voice my opinion right to their face.
    I saw Crusty on a airplane the day after the election last year and told asked her what she was doing. She told me she was going on vacation so I told her maybe she should stay in the office and work for a change. The look was priceless but I bet she thinks of it to this day and realized at that moment that she was not untouchable. More effect I think than a vote although I get your point.
  2. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member
    Province approved mine expansion despite concerns, former MLA says

    Questions raised in 2011 about tailings pond capacity and contingency plans


    Province approved mine expansion despite concerns, former MLA says

    Aerial view shows the damage caused by the Mount Polly mine tailings pond breach.
    The province approved expansion of the Mount Polley mine despite concerns over the tailings pond and even before environment ministry staff had made a decision on allowing the company to release water into Hazeltine Creek.

    “The government is directly implicated in this breach,” charged Bob Simpson, former MLA for Cariboo North. “The Ministry of Mines approved the mine expansion ... failing to account for the increased effluent into an already suspect tailings pond.”

    The 2011 expansion approval occurred while the environment ministry “dragged its heels” on the mine’s request to drain its tailings pond into Hazeltine Creek, he said.

    The environment ministry gave its blessing to the company’s effluent-discharge request one year later, in 2012.

    B.C.’s Environment Minister Mary Polak said the mine didn’t break ground on its expansion until after her ministry approved the increase in discharge.

    “Concurrent permitting exists and that means that you often get one permit ahead of another; they still have to have all legal permits in place before they proceed,” Polak said Friday afternoon during a media conference call. “So it’s not as though one would trump another; it’s not uncommon though and it certainly doesn’t happen only here.”

    A speedier grant from her industry to discharge more effluent would not have stopped Monday’s disaster, which was “structural and not spilling over the top — it’s unrelated,” Polak said.

    Still, the provincial government “is entirely culpable in the Polley breach,” said Simpson, who served as an NDP MLA, then as an independent before being defeated by Liberal Coralee Oakes in the 2013 election.

    He said Mount Polley was originally permitted as a closed-containment mine, that “there was never supposed to be effluent released from the tailings,” and that the government was “fully aware” that the mine’s pond was “too small for its operations.”

    The price of copper allowed the company to mine ore bodies that were originally dismissed as uncommercial, even though it couldn’t accommodate the additional tailings, Simpson said.

    A review of the time line shows:

    • 2009: Mount Polley mine applied to the environment ministry for a permit amendment to discharge up to 1.4 million cubic metres of effluent annually from the tailings pond to Hazeltine Creek.

    • June 2011: An independent report by Brian Olding and Associates raised concerns about the tailings pond filling out and the need to release water.

    • Aug. 2011: The mines ministry issued a permit authorizing the expansion of the Mount Polley mine, allowing it to operate until 2024.

    • 2012: The environment ministry approved the mine’s amended water-discharge permit, limiting the discharge to 35 per cent of the creek’s daily flow rate, with contaminant limits, and requiring an annual discharge plan.

    • 2014: Mount Polley submits a further permit amendment to the environment ministry asking to discharge up to three million cubic metres of treated effluent. No decision was made before the collapse of the tailings dam early Monday.

    Olding was hired jointly by the Williams Lake and Soda Creek Indian bands and mine owner Imperial Metals to conduct an independent review of the company’s proposed discharge of water from its tailings pond.

    “A sustainable means of discharging excess water is required because dam building cannot continue indefinitely,” his report warned.

    The report also criticized the company for not having a contingency plan in case of a tailings pond failure.

    In an interview Friday, Olding said the mine’s request to discharge into Hazeltine Creek was considered by a small staff of three in the environment ministry office in Williams Lake. “They’re very good at what they did, but you can only go so far with that kind of staff. In my opinion, they could have used more staff.”

    He noted there are three ways for water to enter the tailings pond — direct precipitation, drainage through the site, and mining operations.

    Mount Polley began operations in 1997, closed in 2001 and reopened in 2005 as copper prices rose and after the company discovered more ore to work. The company had been ramping up production at the open-pit, copper-gold mine in the months before the tailings pond collapsed.

    Read more:
  3. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    Pete McMartin: Mount Polley Mine — Maybe if we tried putting red tape on the breach


    Pete McMartin: Mount Polley Mine — Maybe if we tried putting red tape on the breach

    An aerial view shows the damage caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C. The pond, which stores toxic waste from the Mount Polley Mine, had its walls break last week, spilling its contents into nearby waterways.
    It’s quiet out there.

    Perhaps it’s chagrin. Perhaps it’s the nausea caused by the prospect of a stock plummet. But in the muddy wake of Mount Polley, you don’t hear much noise emanating from the mining industry and its government acolytes.

    Yes, Mines Minister Bill Bennett assured us the disaster has caused him to lose sleep. (Poor man! Would that he was awake earlier on his watch.)

    And the Mining Association of B.C., in response to Mount Polley, has affected an air of scientific curiosity, as coroners might at an autopsy. It is waiting, as was explained to the public, to see what caused the containment pond breach. Meanwhile, Angela Waterman, the association’s vice-president of environment and technical affairs, endeavoured to dampen the disaster’s impact by referring to it as “an anomaly.” (As in, “Hey, the tsunami was just an anomaly.”)

    In the past, the mining industry wasn’t so shy about making noise. For years, it complained loudly and often about government interference. It’s what Jessica Clogg, the executive director and senior counsel of West Coast Environmental Law, called “the steady drumbeat for deregulation.”

    Both federal and provincial governments got the message. New regimes of deregulation followed.

    So, eventually, did “an anomaly.”

    Here’s a prediction: The mining industry can forget about more deregulation.

    But in retrospect, and as a reminder when the next anomaly arrives — perhaps in the form of an oil tanker — some of the comments about deregulation and the bothersome intrusions of government deserve to be repeated here.

    In their own words:

    • “We know red tape is a barrier to the private sector. Government doesn’t create wealth, but governments can hinder or enable it. Red tape clearly hinders the creation of wealth and jobs. The focus is to make it as effective and efficient as we possibly can.” — Premier Christy Clark, in her keynote speech to the Mineral Exploration Roundup conference in Vancouver, Jan. 27, 2014, quoted in 24 Hours Vancouver.

    • “Government is a big problem if we get in the way. We are going to get out of yours, and we are going to make sure that government isn’t the instrument that slows you down.” — Again, Premier Christy Clark, Jan. 26, 2012, in her speech to the Association of Mineral Exploration (B.C.), quoted in The Province.

    • “In short, while mining has its legacies, we are today global leaders in environmental and safety performance. It is better to mine here than elsewhere, where we can ensure mines are operated responsibly and where we can receive the significant benefits mining provides.” — Ben Chalmers, vice-president of environment, Mining Association of B.C., op-ed in the Campbell River Courier-Islander, Nov. 3, 2010.

    • “Our industry has made significant progress over the past few decades in terms of managing and mitigating our environmental impacts. We understand the need to be socially progressive and responsive to first nations issues. But we also believe that a robust and rigorous environmental assessment can and should be efficient.

    “Efficient environmental assessment processes avoid unnecessarily stressing the finite resources of government regulatory institutions, industry and the public, and can and should lead to more effective public participation. And an efficient use of limited government resources means avoiding duplication — we do not need both levels of government conducting identical reviews of the same project.” — Mining Association of B.C. president Pierre Gratton, in The Vancouver Sun, May 12, 2010.

    • “Responsible mineral explorers understand that there will always be impacts when developing mine-able deposits, and agree that these need to be soundly assessed and properly mitigated.

    “That’s why it’s important to recognize that during the past 40 years the industry, organized labour and government have successfully collaborated on developing effective regulation such as the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in British Columbia, resulting in a world-leading safety record three times better than the average for all sectors in B.C.” — Gavin Dirom, president and chief executive officer of the Association for Mineral Exploration B.C., in an op-ed in The Vancouver Sun, Feb. 22, 2013.

    • “But for all these encouraging developments, there remain major barriers standing in the way of progress. These include the uncertainty surrounding first nations land claims and the interminable environmental assessment process. In fact, there are duplicate environmental assessment processes — federal and provincial — and it can take years to obtain a permit to proceed with a project. Incredibly, it now typically takes a decade or more to bring a mine into production in B.C.” — lead editorial, Vancouver Sun, Sept. 22, 2009.
  4. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    vol. 110 no. 46 > Michael Bliss Singer, 18436–18441, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1302295110

    Enduring legacy of a toxic fan via episodic redistribution of California gold mining debris
    Michael Bliss Singera,b,1, Rolf Aaltoc, L. Allan Jamesd, Nina E. Kilhame, John L. Higsona, and Subhajit Ghoshalf
    Author Affiliations

    Edited by Robert E. Dickinson, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX, and approved September 30, 2013 (received for review February 6, 2013)


    This paper is of fundamental interest to the millions of residents living at the downstream end of this and other global river basins beset by industrial metals mining. Sediment-bound Hg has contaminated food webs of the San Francisco Bay-Delta, but the dominant geographical sources of Hg to downstream ecosystems in this and similar river basins are debated. Likewise, the processes by which Hg is delivered to lowlands and the patterns of its floodplain deposition are poorly understood. This research addresses a gap in generic theory of postmining fan evolution that enables anticipation, prediction, and management of contamination risk to food webs.

    Next Section
    The interrelationships between hydrologically driven evolution of legacy landscapes downstream of major mining districts and the contamination of lowland ecosystems are poorly understood over centennial time scales. Here, we demonstrate within piedmont valleys of California’s Sierra Nevada, through new and historical data supported by modeling, that anthropogenic fans produced by 19th century gold mining comprise an episodically persistent source of sediment-adsorbed Hg to lowlands. Within the enormous, iconic Yuba Fan, we highlight (i) an apparent shift in the relative processes of fan evolution from gradual vertical channel entrenchment to punctuated lateral erosion of fan terraces, thus enabling entrainment of large volumes of Hg-laden sediment during individual floods, and (ii) systematic intrafan redistribution and downstream progradation of fan sediment into the Central Valley, triggered by terrace erosion during increasingly long, 10-y flood events. Each major flood apparently erodes stored sediment and delivers to sensitive lowlands the equivalent of ∼10–30% of the entire postmining Sierran Hg mass so far conveyed to the San Francisco Bay-Delta (SFBD). This process of protracted but episodic erosion of legacy sediment and associated Hg is likely to persist for >104 y. It creates, within an immense swath of river corridor well upstream of the SFBD, new contaminated floodplain surfaces primed for Hg methylation and augments/replenishes potential Hg sources to the SFBD. Anticipation, prediction, and management of toxic sediment delivery, and corresponding risks to lowland ecology and human society globally, depend on the morphodynamic stage of anthropogenic fan evolution, synergistically coupled to changing frequency of and duration extreme floods.
  5. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    Couldn't agree with your comments more KV1. I'd like to help put any of them in prison.
  6. reelfast

    reelfast Active Member

  7. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    The money trail behind Imperial Metals' Mount Polley disaster
    The Calgary Petroleum Club fundraiser and political contributions were a bargain for what Imperial Metals got in return.
    Dermod Travis Aug 11th, 2014

    This weekend, the Vancouver Sun reported that Alberta billionaire N. Murray Edwards helped organize a $1 million fundraiser for the B.C. Liberal party at the Calgary Petroleum Club last year. Rapidly becoming a household name in B.C., Edwards is the controlling shareholder of Imperial Metals, which operates the Mount Polley Mine.

    Putting aside that the cash was raised in another province and likely from folk who can't vote in B.C., Edwards' political generosity didn't stop at selecting canapes for his oil and gas pals.

    Since 2005, Imperial Metals has donated at least $149,890 to the B.C. Liberals. With a win, place and show wager, that total includes $2,500 to each of the leadership campaigns of Christy Clark, Kevin Falcon and George Abbott. It also tossed $3,000 into the kitty for Bill Bennett's 2009 re-election campaign.

    Mount Polley got in on the action as well, with the mine topping up donations to the Liberals by $46,720.

    Now every single cent of those donations could simply be because Edwards is a swell guy and Imperial a swell company. But that won't wash away what some call the sewer scents of B.C. politics from Edwards' largesse. Particularly, since it's not just the totals that stand out, it's the timing of the gifts too.

    Nearly half of Imperial Metal's donations were made after Christy Clark was sworn in as premier, while $45,720 of Mount Polley's donations came via six separate cheques issued in one week alone in March 2013. Guess bank charges weren't an issue for the company.

    All of which is why the October 2012 presentation of Byng Giraud before B.C.'s Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services is so fascinating.

    Giraud – then vice-president, corporate affairs at Imperial Metals –. called on the B.C. government to retain the flow-through tax credits for the exploration industry, to keep the PST off capital investments for mining companies and, most importantly, to reduce the approval process for a new mine from upwards of ten years to as little as three.

    As he noted to the committee: “I think if we're really looking for some flexibility on budget in terms of the mining sector, there is perhaps some wiggle room, but it needs to be in the context of I'm going to build a mine in three years, so maybe I'll tolerate those additional tax rates. People are willing to pay for certainty and for time.”

    Lo and behold, six months later, the B.C. Liberal party was promising voters that it would streamline the mining application processes, work with the federal government to ensure mining projects undergo only one environmental review process, and that it would extend the new mine allowance and other credits allowing new mines and mine expansions to receive depreciation credits of up to 133 per cent to 2020.

    This past January – in a speech to the B.C. Association for Mineral Exploration – Premier Clark took it further promising a review of B.C.'s environmental assessment office to make it "more effective and efficient," claiming that "over the years, the environmental assessment process has gotten so long, so difficult and so complex that communities, proponents, can't get a yes, can't get a no."

    Flashback to 2012 and consider what Giraud said then: “I know that if we could get these down to three to five years — for yes, no or whatever, instead of the long maybe — then there would be incentive for people to throw more money at these things.”

    This past June, Clark issued new mandate letters to each cabinet minister. In Bill Bennett's letter she congratulated him for extending the flow-through tax credit program through 2014 and for reducing red tape for the mining industry. His mandate now includes working with the Finance ministry to extend the new mine allowance and other industry credits to 2020.

    Oh, the PST still doesn't apply to capital investments for mining companies either.

    There was one last thing about Giraud's presentation that jumped out. Arguing his case for a shorter approval process, he claimed: “Nobody trusts experts anymore from an NGO or from a third party, saying: "You know what? We don't trust what you've done."

    After Mount Polley, that can be marked down as famous last words.
  8. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    Shareholder starts class action lawsuit over Imperial Metals' Mount Polley disaster
    Investor says company failed to provide vital facts about the tailings pond prior to the disaster.
    Jenny Uechi Aug 12th, 2014

    An Imperial Metals shareholder has started a class action lawsuit, following the tailings pond breach at the company's Mount Polley mine that poured 10.5 cubic metres of toxic minewater and 4.5 million cubic metres of contaminated sediment into nearby waterways.

    "There was a filing made last week in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice," confirmed Michael Robb, a partner with London, Ontario-based law firm Siskinds LLP. The plaintiff, he said, is a Calgary-based retail investor. "When (the breach) happened, a substantial portion of her investment disappeared. We've been in touch with other shareholders as well."

    Imperial Metals' stock immediately lost 42% of its trading value on August 5, the day after the breach was reported. As of Tuesday, it is trading at around $10.

    Robb said N.Murray Edwards, the billionaire oil and gas investor who is the controlling shareholder in Imperial Metals, is named as one of the defendants in the suit.

    He said the shareholder alleges that the company did not fully disclose facts, as it was required to do under securities laws. Reports suggest that Imperial Metals was notified by consultants, engineers and government inspectors over the past several years about potential problems with the Mount Polley tailings facility.

    Imperial Metals' 2014 Annual General Meeting circular, as well as annual reports since 2010, outline the company's activities but make no mention of potential problems or engineering changes of the tailings facility.

    Robb emphasized that while investors suffered financially, the biggest loss was borne by the local communities near Mount Polley.

    "The biggest problem, of course, is the people and environment of that area. Investors have obviously lost money over this, but the concerns of people who lost their drinking water are much more important."

    In terms of the cleanup costs, neither the company nor the BC government have yet outlined any details. In theory, the BC government has reclamation bonds that can cover in the event of such events, but critics have noted in the past that the BC government's total reclamation bonds are less than half of what would be required.

    Imperial Metals was contacted for comment, but has not responded.
  9. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    B.C. First Nations band evicts company that owns Mount Polley tailings pond


    B.C. First Nations band evicts company that owns Mount Polley tailings pond

    Members of the Xatsull and Esketemc First Nations hold a healing ceremony on the banks of the Quesnel River in Likely on Aug. 7 after 10 million cubic metres of mining effluent was spilled following a tailings dam break at Mount Polley mine. Premier Christy Clark and Mines Minister Bill Bennett are visible in the middle of the photo.
    CHASE - A First Nations band in British Columbia has issued an eviction notice to the company that owns the Mount Polley tailings pond, which spilled millions of cubic metres of waste in the Cariboo region.

    The Neskonlith are urging Imperial Metals Corp. (TSX:III) to leave their land, which is in the Thompson Okanagan region, about 48 kilometres east of Kamloops near the village of Chase.

    Imperial Metals is surveying a 211-square-kilometre area for zinc and lead for a project called the Ruddock Creek mine, which is unrelated to the Mount Polley mine.

    The band issued a statement saying the group will not permit any mining development that would contaminate water or destroy salmon habitat, as elders do not want the area poisoned.

    The band says it opposes the Ruddock Creek Mine because Imperial Metals failed to protect First Nations land when the Mount Polley tailings pond breached.

    Imperial Metals did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    The Neskonlith was not directly affected by the Mount Polley breach, but it is one of 17 bands that form the Secwepemc (She-whep-m) First Nation, some of which were affected by the accident.


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  10. GLG

    GLG Well-Known Member

    Oh! what a tangled web we weave
    When first we practice to deceive!
    Sir Walter Scott
  11. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    Mount Polley mine spill: a hazard of Canada's industry-friendly attitude?
    A dam at a waste pond on the site of a British Columbia mine burst last week, releasing 4.5m cubic meters of potentially toxic slurry into virtually untouched forest

    Peter Moskowitz, Wednesday 13 August 2014 09.00 EDT

    Mount Polley
    The results of a tailing pond breach at Imperial Metals Corp’s gold and copper mine, which released millions of cubic meters of water and waste. Photograph: Reuters
    The scale of the devastation only became apparent from the air. A dam at a waste pond on the site of a British Columbia open-pit mine had burst, releasing 10m cubic meters of water and 4.5m cubic meters of potentially toxic slurry into virtually untouched forest, lakes and rivers into an area of Canada populated mostly by the indigenous First Nations peoples. Soda Creek First Nations chief Bev Sellars took a helicopter tour to assess the scale of the disaster. “It looked like an avalanche, but avalanches don’t have toxic waste in them,” she said.

    Government reports about the incident at the Mount Polley mine on 4 August have been cautiously optimistic, saying the surrounding water is likely safe to drink, and that wildlife will not be significantly impacted by the spill.

    But the industry-friendly attitude that has become a hallmark of both the British Columbia and federal governments in Canada over the past decade has led to scepticism. Local activists and residents say they are waiting for data of their own to determine the safety of the surrounding environment. In the meantime, just over a week on from the spill, they are working to determine why it happened in the first place.

    “This is a huge operation that breached because the government was negligent and the company was negligent,” said Cayoose Creek First Nations chief Michelle Edwards. “People don’t understand what this is going to do to us up here.”

    Mount Polley
    The force of the spill widened the creek from about 1.5 meters to over 100 meters wide, according to several people who have seen the area. Photograph: Reuters
    The dam collapse occurred at the Imperial Metals Mount Polley gold and copper mine near the town of Likely, in the Cariboo region of British Columbia. The dam’s failure was catastrophic, allowing nearly the entire contents of the mine’s tailings pond – an area the size of New York’s Central Park holding years worth of mining waste – to flow out into Hazeltine Creek, Polley Lake and Quesnel lake.

    The force of the spill widened the creek from about 1.5 meters to over 100 meters wide, according to several people who have seen the area since the spill.

    “It’s basically a debris field of this toxic sludge,” said Jeremy Williams, a local activist and filmmaker who toured the damage on a boat last week. “It was easily knee deep and waist deep in some places.”

    Despite the disturbing images of the area that filled Canada’s newspapers and television stations in the days after the spill, British Columbia’s government has insisted the dam failure is not an environmental disaster. The province’s minister of energy and mines also compared the flow of effluent and sludge to an avalanche, but in a positive light.

    “The difference is that snow melts, [but] you are left with exactly the same [result],” Bill Bennett told the Vancouver Sun.

    The initial water tests seem to back up Bennett’s claims, with samples showing mercury and other toxic substances at historical levels.

    But according to experts, the full extent of the damage may remain unknown for years or even decades, as toxins from the mine slowly build up in the environment.

    “Water will continue to run through literally tons of this sediment and grass will grow through the sediment,” said Brian Olding, an environmental consultant who authored a report on the Mount Polley Mine in 2011. “Imagine if a moose eats that grass, and then an aboriginal person comes and shoots that moose. Then we have a food contamination issue on our hands.”

    Conflicts of interest

    Local residents and critics of the British Columbia provincial government also say officials may be playing down the spill’s negative effects.

    As Canada has gone all-in on resource extraction in the last decade or so, with prime minister Stephen Harper promising to turn the country into one of the largest natural resource exporters in the world, governments across the country, including in British Columbia, have developed close ties with extraction industries.

    Imperial Metals and its related companies and investors have donated upwards of $200,000 to British Columbia’s ruling Liberal Party since 2005, according to campaign finance records. Imperial Metals controlling shareholder Murray Edwards also held a million-dollar fundraiser for British Columbia premier Christy Clark, according to the Vancouver Sun. Clark has also praised Edwards.

    “A significant part of our progress in British Columbia comes from people like Murray Edwards,” she said in a 2012 speech at the University of Calgary, in which she extolled the virtues of mining for the BC economy.

    Activists say those relationships have created a conflict of interest that may have prevented officials from taking action at the Mount Polley Mine before disaster struck.

    Mount Polley
    Imperial Metals will likely be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars in cleanup costs. Photograph: Reuters
    Under Clark’s predecessor Gordon Campbell, also a Liberal Party member, the number of inspections of mines was cut in half, according to government data.

    Still, BC’s environment ministry issued five notices of violation to the Polley mine since 2012, including one in May for operators allowing waste to build up past the capacity for which the tailings pond was designed. The engineering company that designed the tailings pond had also warned that it was operating potentially beyond capacity. The company pulled out of the mine operation in 2011 without saying why. Also in 2011, a report by Brian Olding, commissioned by two First Nations groups and paid for by Imperial Metals said the tailings pond was being expanded too rapidly.

    It is unclear if Imperial Metals acted on any of those warnings. Requests to the company for interviews were not returned for this story.

    Now, Imperial Metals will likely be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars in cleanup costs.

    The company has promised to work with the British Columbia government to address the cleanup. But that’s of little comfort to those who live near the mine. Even for supporters of the company, the toll on the local towns near Mount Polley is clear.

    Urszula Kucharczyk, the co-owner of Morehead Lake Cabins, a resort in Likely, said she is not too worried about the environmental impacts of the spill, but knows that her livelihood will be affected regardless. About 80% of the resort’s guests were mine workers, Kucharczyk said. Now, as the mine pulls back operations to focus on the cleanup, most of those workers have left.

    “If the mine closes down, maybe people will get depressed and start drinking or doing drugs she said,” she said. “So maybe we can convert into a rehab.”
  12. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    Government under investigation over alleged Mount Polley secrecy
    Published August 14, 2014 03:00 pm | 3 Comments
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    British Columbia's Information and Privacy Commissioner will investigate whether the provincial government broke the law and failed to warn citizens of potential risks at the Mount Polley mine waste dam near Likely.

    The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act contains a clause under the heading Public Interest Paramount that trumps the rest of the law. Section 25 says government must proactively release information about potential risks to the environment and public health.

    "My office has been closely monitoring recent events involving the Mount Polley mine tailings-pond breach, which has significantly impacted the people and lands of B.C.'s Cariboo region," Denham said in an Aug. 14 news release announcing her probe.

    "In the aftermath of the breach, concerns are being raised about what government knew about the condition of the Mount Polley mine and whether the public should have been notified of potential risks before the disaster occurred."

    Denham has the power to interview witnesses -- including government and company officials -- under oath and order them to release documents. The news release said Denham would make no further comment until the investigation is complete and published.

    Denham made the announcement less than a week after an advocate for government openness complained. Vincent Gogolek, executive director of the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, formally complained Aug. 8 that the government failed to perform its statutory duty to warn citizens about the state of the Mount Polley mining waste dam before the Aug. 4 disaster.

    In a 2013 report, Denham found that the government failed to adhere to section 25 before the 2010 failure of the Testalinden Dam near Oliver. The government withheld from the public reports since the FOI law was enacted in 1993 that warned the aging dam was a hazard to people and property.

    Veteran journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee.

    - See more at:
  13. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    Tailings Dams 'Have Not Breached,' Says Minister... Except When They Have
    Several other incidents offer insights into BC spill.
    By Maura Forrest, Today,

    Minister Bill Bennett
    'Tailings dams at operating mines in Canada have not breached,' Minister Bill Bennett said on Tuesday. Photo: BC Gov't.

    Here are some of the facts:

    A barrier breaks at a mine site, causing millions of litres of water to gush from a tailings pond into nearby waterways.

    The mining company and the provincial government assure the public that the water poses no health risks, while local First Nations call for independent reviews.

    It turns out the dam was not subject to regular inspections prior to the breach.

    The incident is called "the largest spill of its kind in Canadian history."

    A government official is quoted as saying he is "surprised this could happen."

    Sound familiar?

    Except it's not the story of the recent Mount Polley disaster in British Columbia. It's the story of another mining spill that occurred at the Obed coal mine in Alberta less than a year ago.

    On Oct. 31, 2013, 670,000 cubic metres of water and 37,000 cubic metres of sediment poured out of a containment pond at the Obed mine, roughly 300 kilometres west of Edmonton. The spill devastated two small creeks and sent a murky sediment plume floating down the Athabasca River.

    Ten months later, the cause of the breach is still unknown and an investigation is ongoing. The bulk of the sediment that flowed into the forest below the dam has been cleaned up, but no one really knows how much made its way into the Athabasca.

    Harvey Scott, with the Keepers of the Athabasca, worries that toxic sediment will continue to wash down the river to the Peace-Athabasca delta and slowly make its way up the food chain.

    "Each time there's a surge or a spring freshet, some of the sediment will flow down that far," he said. "Eventually, some of it will get to humans. How much of it is hard to say."

    The story of the Obed mine spill is strikingly similar to last week's Mount Polley spill, when a tailings dam owned by Imperial Metals Ltd. broke and released 10 million cubic metres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of sediment into surrounding lakes and creeks.

    So when B.C.'s Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett this week implied that the Mount Polley spill is unprecedented, what exactly was he comparing it to?

    Tailings dams 'have not breached': minister

    During a press conference with Bennett on Tuesday, Dr. Trevor Corneil of the Interior Health Authority lifted another part of the water ban that has been in place since the tailings dam broke on Aug. 4.

    Water from Quesnel River and Quesnel Lake is now safe to use, except for the area surrounding a "visible plume" of sediment that remains near the mouth of Hazeltine Creek. Corneil also said that all fish in Quesnel Lake, Quesnel River, and the Fraser River are safe for consumption.

    During the conference, Bennett stressed that the Mount Polley spill is one-of-a-kind.

    "Tailings dams at operating mines in Canada have not breached," he said, adding that a few closed mines in Canada have had tailings pond spills.

    But one mining expert said that's not the case.

    Pierre Gratton, president of the Mining Association of Canada, points to the Sullivan Mine in Kimberley, B.C. In 1948, a tailings dam broke at that mine, releasing 1.1 million cubic metres of effluent. A similar incident occurred at the same mine over 40 years later, in 1991, but the tailings flowed into a secondary dam that contained them before they spilled into the environment. The Sullivan Mine was active until 2001.

    "We can't say [tailings spills] never happen," Gratton said. "They do happen. But they're rare. We haven't had a failure of this kind in many, many years."

    Others argue that Bennett's statement is merely an exercise in semantics.

    Stan Tomandl, with B.C.'s Fair Mining Collaborative, said the minister's comment is too narrow in focus, and ignores similar spills that have occurred at non-operational mines and at Canadian-owned mines outside Canadian borders.

    "It doesn't matter if [the statement] is accurate," said Stan Tomandl, with B.C.'s Fair Mining Collaborative. "The minister is focusing on something very specific."

    The Obed spill is a case in point. The mine was closed in Nov. 2012, a year before the tailings pond was breached. According to Bennett's criteria, that spill wouldn't count.

    But if those criteria are relaxed a little, other spills could be added to the list.

    A history of spills

    In 2011, a series of incidents at the Lac Bloom mine in Quebec released over 50 million litres of tailings water that affected 15 downstream lakes.

    In 2008, 11 million litres were released from the old Opemiska copper mine near Chapais, Quebec.

    In 2004, a tailings dam collapsed during reclamation of a mine in B.C., spilling up to 8,000 cubic metres of water and sediment into Pinchi Lake.

    In 1998, a tailings dam collapsed at the Canadian-owned Los Frailes mine in Aznalcóllar, Spain, releasing up to five million cubic metres of toxic water and sludge, and covering thousands of hectares of farmland in slurry.

    In 1996, a Canadian-owned copper mine in the Philippines released 1.6 million cubic metres of tailings through an old drainage tunnel, forcing 1,200 residents to leave their homes.

    And in 1995, a Canadian-owned gold mine in Guyana spilled 4.2 million cubic metres of cyanide slurry into the Essequibo River.

    The three high-profile international spills prompted the Mining Association of Canada to launch its Towards Sustainable Mining certification program in 2004. Mining companies that are members of the association are ranked according to six indicators. The most important is tailings management.

    "With tailings, a failure is unacceptable," said Gratton, adding that industry "wanted to do something about that."

    Gratton said many companies have improved their tailings management practices in the last decade. Progress reports are publicly available on the organization's website.

    At the time of the Mount Polley spill, Imperial Metals was in the process of obtaining the certification, but had not yet undergone an external evaluation.

    No public record of spills

    Still others say it's unhelpful to suggest the Mount Polley spill is an anomaly.

    "I think it's naïve and irresponsible to believe [tailings spills] don't happen," said Ramsey Hart of MiningWatch Canada. "It shows an unwillingness to accept the risks in these kinds of facilities. It shows overconfidence in the technology."

    Hart said the Mount Polley spill is likely the largest tailings spill in Canadian history. But he thinks we should be learning from the smaller accidents that preceded it, rather than discounting them.

    For the public, however, that may be easier said than done.

    Hart said he doesn't know of any "reasonably accessible" public record of large tailings spills. His organization gets much of its information from tips and media reports.

    A database of global tailings dam spills is available from, a website devoted primarily to health and safety concerns about uranium mining. It includes some Canadian spills, along with a caveat that the list is incomplete "due to limited availability of data."

    Alan Young with the Canadian Boreal Initiative believes a registry of industry infractions is a "reasonable public request."

    "It would provide transparency on corporate performance for pollution control and risk management," he wrote in an email. "Citizens and communities could be informed about the track record of companies and sectors in managing their waste and protecting the environment."

    Need for long-term accountability

    A public registry could have other effects as well.

    Hart said he's not aware of many long-term monitoring programs that continue to measure toxins in the environment for years after a tailings spill. He said greater public awareness of spills could improve accountability.

    "Once the water column cleans up, people's concerns fade," he said. "People sort of call it a day."

    That's something Harvey Scott has come to learn since the Obed spill last year. He's frustrated that the provincial government and Sherritt, the mining company, mainly took water samples and largely ignored the sediment. He's wary of the conclusion that the spill will have no lasting effects.

    "We don't know whether to believe those results or not," he said.

    As for the Mount Polley disaster, results from sediment sampling have not yet been released. A comprehensive report on the long-term impacts of the spill is due from Imperial Metals today.
  14. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    Imperial Metals Faces Scrutiny over Other Mines' Safety
    Corner-cutting, cost savings a 'pattern of behaviour,' mining consultant alleges.
    By David P. Ball, Today,

    Imperial Metals Corporation is facing fresh scrutiny of its other major mines across British Columbia in the wake of the Mount Polley dam breach.

    Last Monday, the impoundment dam near Likely, B.C. collapsed, dumping 14.5 million cubic metres of tailings into the watershed. Reports have since revealed the firm was warned about dam safety and dangerous tailings levels by employees, their blockade near the Red Chris site near Iskut, B.C. (roughly 500 kilometres northwest of Smithers) by members of Tahltan nation launched on Aug. 8.

    The Red Chris impoundment is contained by an earthen dam reportedly similar to the one at Mount Polley, and is designed by the same United Kingdom-based company, AMEC, which took over engineering at the Mount Polley site in 2011 before the tailings dam was raised in height to accommodate rising levels of waste.

    One mining consultant familiar with the design and plans for the company's Red Chris project said that the problems weren't just at the Mount Polley site, but asked that his identity not be published due to fears it could hurt his chances of being employed in the industry.

    At Red Chris mine, he alleged, the company resisted calls to install a protective lining material across the bottom of the tailings pond or some other measure to reduce tailings leaching from the pond, as recommended by local First Nations, and said the company has not done many of the tests recommended in a 2013 report on the risk of leaks. In addition, he alleged the company has tried to cut costs when it comes to modeling software around impoundment leaks, leading to inadequate data.

    He alleged there is pattern that boils down to a lack of "proven contingencies" at Red Chris, a term denoting the actions taken triggered by "undesirable outcomes at the mine site."

    "These are what would appear were missing at Mount Polley too," he said. "They don't want them because once you have a proven contingency, then you have a trigger, once you have a trigger then you need monitoring. It all costs them a lot of money."

    In addition, the consultant argued, "There's a pattern of behaviour around trying to achieve the least-cost monitoring... They want to get the least onerous monitoring conditions in their permit as possible."

    Combined, he argued, those factors raise questions about how safe the Red Chris mine's earthen tailings impoundment will be.

    Repeated requests for an interview with Imperial Metals Corp. or for comment on the consultant's allegations were not granted by press time.

    'It was so mismanaged that it makes me sick': tailings dam foreman

    Retired Mount Polley tailings dam foreman Gerald MacBurney has spent much of the past week in interviews with media outlets and provincial investigators about why he resigned after seven years, saying he repeatedly and unsuccessfully "fought" to get the large trucks he needed to add more rock to the impoundment as the tailings waters rose, and mine engineers raised flags.

    "I've been repeating my story here every day; I don't want to have to repeat it no more," he told The Tyee. "Everyone's very intelligent, they should be able to see through this whole thing and see who's lying."

    MacBurney has repeatedly claimed that he and engineers warned the company that water was getting too high, and even poured over the dam top once in May. But he alleged that dam safety seemed to have taken a backseat to extracting ore from the mine pit, and ore began to pile up needlessly around the site.

    "Everyone was more concerned with the pit," he recalled. "I understand we need ore to run the whole mine, but when you start to see it stockpiled down in pit, you go, 'What the hell are we doing here?'

    "I was just following my directive from my engineers. If they can't make the pit do it, I sure as shit can't. It was so mismanaged that it makes me sick."

    Imperial Metals ramped up Mount Polley's ore production levels by 23 per cent in the previous three months ending on June 30, according to a company release, compared to the previous quarter.

    While the government said it will ensure mines across the province operate safely and future accidents are averted, Imperial Metals said that its Red Chris gold and copper mine is still scheduled to launch full operations. The firm's vice-president of corporate affairs said the Mount Polley failure would not delay that opening.

    "It's going to be human nature for people to think like that," Steve Robertson told Bloomberg News on Aug. 9. "We haven't received any indication from the government that there will be any change to our ability to go ahead and commission Red Chris."

    Despite the company's initial insistence Red Chris mine would proceed unhindered, on Wednesday the B.C. government announced that now the project would not launch until Tahltan nation could conduct an Imperial Metals-funded "independent engineering review" of the facility, according to an Aug. 13 email from a Ministry of Energy and Mines spokeswoman.

"Government is committed to an independent review of all tailings ponds and an independent investigation into the breach at Mt Polley," she wrote. "Lessons learned from the investigation into the Mount Polley incident will be applied province-wide as appropriate."

Imperial Metals Corp. has not responded to repeated Tyee interview requests since the dam broke.

    'They hurry everything': consultant

    The mining consultant for Red Chris mine who spoke anonymously said he believes Imperial Metals' fights over leaching prevention at that mine, and reports of ignored warnings at Mount Polley, suggest a "pattern of behaviour" in the company of hurrying and overly aggressive cost-cutting on projects.

    The local consultant believed that Mount Polley's repeated tailings dam warnings around rising water levels could have been addressed for as little as $3 million.

    The consultant also pointed to a 2007 pit wall collapse at the Huckleberry mine, an open-pit copper and molybdenum mine near Houston, B.C. that is 50 per cent-owned by Imperial Metals. First Nations in the area had previously expressed worries about the mine's authorized releases into the watershed.

    The firm listed as conducting "geotechnical investigation and tailings management facility design" for Huckleberry mine was AMEC, the same one that built up the existing Mount Polley dam.
  15. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    Be careful drawing conclusions: consultant

    A different consultant with experience in tailings impoundment impacts warned The Tyee not to leap to judgment based on the apparent similarity of earthen dams designed by the same firm.

    "Just because it was done by the same designers or built by same mine, you cannot draw conclusions there," said the expert, who asked not to be identified. "Just because one dam failed, it doesn't mean it will fail as well.

    "Having been around the subject for some years, you have to be careful not to jump to conclusions about the safety of dams because of one failure unless they were the exact same design... The only way you can get solid information is to talk to people familiar with its design."

    Knight Piésold issued a statement following the Mount Polley incident distancing itself from that mine's tailings dam design at the time it collapsed, insisting that since it ceased being engineer of record for the tailings storage facility on Feb. 10, 2011, after which time the dam was significantly heightened.

    "The original engineering done by Knight Piésold Ltd. accommodated a significantly lower water volume than the tailings storage facility reportedly held at the time of the breach," the company's statement read. "Significant engineering and design changes were made subsequent to our involvement, such that the tailings storage facility can no longer be considered a Knight Piésold Ltd. design."

    By March 8, 2011, the new Engineer of Record for the tailings impoundment was British firm AMEC Earth and Environment, a company that had previously examined the earthen dam and given it passing grades.

    AMEC is also the company that designed the earthen dam for Imperial Metals' Red Chris mine. Company spokeswoman Lauren Gallagher would not comment on similarities between the design of Red Chris and Mount Polley dams, but told The Tyee by email that a dam's safety is dependent on many factors, including how it was maintained, operated, constructed and designed. On top of those, "unforeseen conditions" are also a factor in performance, she said.

    "Determining which of these factors contributed to the Mount Polley Dam breach requires a thorough investigation," Gallagher said in an email. "While AMEC serves as the Engineer of Record on the most recent raising of the dam, implementation of the AMEC design has not been completed and some construction activity was still taking place to complete our design.

    "AMEC is deeply saddened and concerned about the damage caused by the Mount Polley Dam breach. We are committed to working with Imperial Metals and the local authorities to assist in determining the cause of the breach and to offer guidance on how best to mitigate impacts to the surrounding communities and environment."

    'Clearly somebody had concerns' at Mount Polley: engineer

    The energy and mines spokeswoman told The Tyee that its "comprehensive investigation" into the Likely, B.C. incident would examine "the failure to determine root causes around the incident at Mt Polley," including scrutinizing the design and engineering of the tailings impoundment that was still in process of being heightened by AMEC.

    "The Province is aware Imperial Metals has contracted the same company at Red Chris mine and Mt. Polley mine," the spokeswoman added in an email. "The cause of the failure at Mount Polley is unknown at this time and will be the subject of a thorough investigation with independent oversight."

    Vancouver-based geotechnical engineer Jack Caldwell wrote on his website that examining videos and reports of the tailings spill at Mount Polley strongly suggest high water levels and engineering problems are to blame.

    He wrote on Aug. 9 that MacBurney's claims engineers advised using rocks to stabilize the embankments meant that "clearly somebody had concerns about the stability of the facility."

    In another post from Aug. 6, Caldwell posited that the dam failed because "there was too much water in the dam, the corner gave way, an upstream slide occurred, and the disaster ensued.

    "They are saying nobody could have anticipated this," he said. "Rubbish. It was entirely predictable given the facts. It is just nobody had the courage to speak.

    "The sad thing is that if indeed the dam was being operated in accordance with plans and permits, the consultants are to blame."

    Meanwhile, the local consultant familiar with Red Chris mines' plans who spoke anonymously to The Tyee insisted he does, in fact, know the tailings impoundment's design quite well at that site -- and expressed worries it may be even less stable than its counterpart at Mount Polley.

    "They're similar designs," he said. "There are some subtle differences, it's a different shape and it's deeper and in a valley.

    "But it's in a place prone to avalanches and landslides, geohazards that actually the impoundment in [Mount Polley] didn't have. Normally, you model failures on a catastrophic event, not 3 a.m. on a morning and the thing suddenly goes -- it just came too high and fell apart. The impoundment that's planned at Red Chris has a lot more geohazards than the Mount Polley site does."

    'They're rushing forward' at Red Chris: Mining Watch

    Ramsey Hart, Canada program coordinator for MiningWatch Canada, said the Red Chris project has raised numerous questions not only about the safety of its tailings dam, but about Imperial Metals' practices overall.

    "They're rushing forward to get it built," he said, claiming that at an impoundment consultation he attended for the mine, operators boasted they'd started impoundment construction before getting permits. "I guess they're confident in the regulatory process going their way.

    "That raises some concerns that they're not following the best practices, or that they're not doing everything they could to address the issues -- about shortcuts or best practices not being met."

    If the allegations he's heard of corner-cutting are true, he added, they likely stem from a "drive for the bottom line, as there is in most mining companies, that's combined with a fairly permissive regulatory regime.

    According to Elections BC records, various divisions of AMEC donated $221,010 to the BC Liberals since 2000, and none to the BC New Democrats. (The Tyee previously reported that Imperial Metals and its mine subsidiaries also donated $233,710 to the Liberals and $43,410 to the NDP)
  16. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    Imperial Metals insurance likely not enough for dam collapse cleanup
    Restoration costs expected to be hundreds of millions of dollars

    AUGUST 10, 2014 09:21 AM

    Imperial Metals' $15-million property and business interruption insurance coverage is likely to fall short of the cleanup cost of the collapse of its mine waste dam at Mount Polley last week.

    The company also has $10 million in third-party liability insurance, triggered if a party other than the company is responsible for damage.

    While Imperial Metals says it is too early to provide a cleanup cost, the collapse of the mine waste dam in 1998 of the Los Frailes lead-zinc mine near Seville, Spain cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Imperial Metals vice-president of corporate affairs Steve Robertson said Saturday he would be guessing at a cleanup cost at Mount Polley. The company has, however, vowed to do all it could to “make right” the effects of the dam collapse.

    “I don’t know if it’s nowhere near (enough insurance) — it would we way to early to tell,” Robertson said in an interview.

    Likely-resident Richard Holmes — a consultant fisheries biologist who does work for the Soda Creek Indian Band — is worried the cost of the cleanup could overwhelm the company.

    A BMO Nesbitt Burns Inc. analysis pegged the cost to the company at $200-million, not including legal damages that could double that amount. Mount Polley is also Imperial Metals main cash contributor, accounting for 83 per cent of the company’s 2014 earnings per share.

    Holmes, a 38-year Likely resident, said a full cleanup should include removing the sludge deposited in Quesnel Lake, and fully restoring Hazeltine Creek and Polley Lake, something he believes could cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

    The cleanup is important because the creek is home to rainbow trout and Coho salmon that spawn there, said Holmes. The mouth of the creek is also a rearing area for sockeye and Chinook salmon, he said.

    “I think mining companies should be concerned all over the world that this does get cleaned up properly. It’s a black-eye on the mining industry everywhere, especially in a western country like Canada where they tout the highest standards possible,” said Holmes. “Today, we are looking like a third-world country.”

    Environment Minister Mary Polak has stressed that British Columbia has a polluter-pay model.

    “(Imperial Metals) have significant assets and I, as yet, have not heard any concern from them with respect to affording the long-term costs of this,” said Polak.

    Responding to the release last Friday of a warning letter from the engineering firm that designed Mount Polley’s dam and storage facility, Imperial Metals said there was nothing unusual about the letter.

    At the end of its contract in 2011, Knight Piesold sent a letter to Imperial Mines and the B.C. Inspector of Mines that stated the dam and storage area was getting large and it was “extremely important” they be monitored and constructed properly.

    Robertson said Saturday there was no disagreement about the dam when Knight Piesold left the project.

    “I don’t think that’s anything out of the ordinary that they would make sure they establish (they) were only responsible for things up to this point — now it’s somebody else’s issue and provide lots of caveats and warnings in there,” said Robertson.

    The letter’s release by Knight Priesold last Friday, came just days after a former foreman, Gerald MacBurney, said the company was not safely increasing the size of the dam. Larry Chambers, who was dismissed from Mount Polley at the end of 2013, has said he had also raised safety and environmental concerns at the mine.

    Imperial Metals president Brian Kynoch has been adamant the company has followed their engineers’ advice.

    Once Knight Piesold left the project, AMEC was hired to provide advice on raising the height of the dam to contain growing amounts of ground-up waste rock and water.

    Robertson said the company followed both the advice of Knight Piesold and the new firm AMEC.

    “We did monitor construction and operate properly,” said Robertson.

    Mines Minister Bill Bennett said he also does not view the letter from Knight Piesold as unusual or that it was a warning.

    The collapse of a 300-metre section of the rock and earth dam spewed 10 million cubic metres of water and finely ground rock containing potentially-toxic metals and chemicals into Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake.

    The force of the mixture of water and mine waste from the storage facility scoured a large channel along Hazeltine Creek, also depositing trees and other debris in Quesnel Lake.

    On Saturday, the province gave the go-ahead for Imperial Metals to begin to pump water out of Polley Lake into Hazeltine Creek.

    The lake has risen about two metres after water from the collapse also poured into the lake and its outlet was plugged by the finely-ground rock from the tailings facility.

    Residents are unhappy about dumping more mine water into Quesnel Lake, but the company has argued the water and the mine waste is relatively benign. The company also says the plug is at risk of letting go if it rains, which could send another rush of millions of cubic metres of water down Hazeltine Creek.

    The province released its latest series of water test results from Quesnel Lake and Quesnel River on Saturday — including one sample near the mouth of Hazeltine Creek — which all passed drinking water guidelines.

    The Pacific Salmon Commission, a joint Canada-U.S. agency to conserve and manage salmon, said Friday a lag between the timing of the spill and the return suggests substantial impacts on returning adult sockeye this year are unlikely.

    Any impacts on salmon rearing in the area are more complex and will require longer to evaluate, said the commission.

    - See more at:
  17. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    Is Mount Polley making people sick? Anecdotal clues, questions mount
    Posted August 14, 2014 by Damien Gillis in Health and Environment
    Is Mount Polley making people sick- Anecdotal evidence, questions mount
    Hazeltine Creek following Mount Polley Mine’s tailings dam breach (Photo: Chris Blake)
    A series of anecdotal reports of illness from suffered by people in close proximity to the Mount Polley Mine tailings dam breach is prompting a local First Nation to push the premier for a study of potential airborne contaminants – and calls for an independent inquiry into the still-unfolding disaster.

    “I was very sick”
    Sylvia Palm is a 40-year resident of Likely, BC. Her home, near Cedar Point Park on Quesnel Lake, is 5 km northeast of Hazeltine Creek, where debris began flowing out of Polley Lake after Imperial Metals’ tailings dam burst on August 4.

    At that moment, early in the morning, Palm was sleeping upstairs with the doors and windows wide open, to keep cool from the summer heat. Later that BC Day, as water and sludge from the breached pond rushed towards Quesnel Lake, she she began to realize “something wasn’t right.”

    By 1 pm, I started to feel burning and irritation in my eyes and nose.
    Palm knew she had to get out of town. By 3 pm, she had left the Likely area.

    She would return on Wednesday, only to pack a few things in order to relocate to her sister’s, some 20km away. She spent the evening in the house, this time with the doors and windows closed.

    “When I woke up, I was very sick,” Palm recalls. “My eyes were sore, my nose was burning, and I had this intense headache concentrated in my forehead – unlike any I’ve ever experienced.”

    That morning, she left to stay at her sister’s, where she remains today.

    As soon as was I out of the area, things began alleviating quickly, but it was a full 48 hours before I felt remotely normal – although I wouldn’t say that I’ve felt truly normal since.
    Film on the water
    Mountain Ash on Sylvia Palm's property, displaying browned foliage (Sylvia Palm)
    Mountain Ash displaying browned foliage (Sylvia Palm)
    After spending the next four days at her sister’s, Palm returned home for just an hour a day on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. She went back mainly to take water samples, photos and video of her property. “Every time I go back, I feel my face burning in my nose membranes and eyes,” Palm says.

    What she saw was troubling. She observed browned foliage on mountain ash, hazelnut trees and poplar. She also captured the video below of a pail of water drawn from her underground spring. She is in the habit of filling a pail with the frigid water and leaving it outside to warm up before watering her plants with it. Thus, the pail in the video was exposed to the open air on her property from August 7th – the day she left for her sister’s – to the 13th, when the video was taken.

    What it shows is a milky film on top of the water:

    Just a few days earlier, documentary filmmaker Jeremy Williams recorded an oily film on top of the water flowing down Hazeltine Creek, near the mouth of the breached dam. Williams, who has done lots of documentary work in the region in recent years, headed there with his camera soon after he learned of the disaster.

    Besides filming the physical devastation, Williams interviewed a number of locals who described to him experiencing a range of symptoms – from nausea and vomiting to burning eyes and respiratory difficulties - while attending the site in the early hours and days following the dam’s blow-out (watch for video of these interviews in the coming days).

    Filmmaker feels the burn
    Williams himself experienced short-term health effects during and following the approximate 1 hour he spent on Hazeltine Creek, near the dam, on Friday, August 8.

    According to him, “a small amount of water was still cascading from the rupture area, so some of the water was airborne through mist.” In that short time, he developed a headache and his eyes started to burn.

    After leaving the area, I noticed my lungs feeling weak, like I couldn’t catch my breath.
    It took 2 days for Williams’ breathing to return to normal, while the burning sensation in his eyes lingered for a day and a half.
  18. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    Facebook posts ignite concern
    Meanwhile – as Mike Smyth noted in his province column yesterday, calling for an independent review into Mount Polley - environmental activist David Clow has been stirring up concern on facebook with his widely-read posts on the disaster.

    On August 9, he wrote the following:

    Attempting to fall asleep last night, I kept asking why I did this to myself. I have never felt like I did after being exposed like I was last night. I was so ill that I wrote a list of symptoms, not expecting to be able to remember. They included: vomiting, dry heaving, upset stomach, dizziness, motor control delays, continuous blurred vision, throbbing and hot cheeks, heavy eyelids, pain in and around the eyes, lethargic in action and thought, blacking out of vision, tiredness, and headache.
    Clow would later add, “You don’t need a white lab coat to understand that this is poison. The smell here makes your vision blur and gives you a headache.”

    Layer of film on water following Mount Polley tailings dam breach (Facebook / David Clow)
    Layer of film on water near dam following Mount Polley tailings spill (Facebook / David Clow)
    “They should be testing for airborne contaminants”
    Rick Holmes is a Registered Professional Biologist whose company, Cariboo Envirotech, acts as the local Soda Creek First Nation’s Mining and Mineral Exploration Coordinator. Though he wasn’t at the site at the time of the initial incident, he too received numerous reports of a strong smell in the air at the time.

    After listening to a number of community members’ concerns, Holmes feels it’s high time for the provincial government to begin studying potential air impacts from the disaster.

    He told me that his client, Soda Creek First Nation, sent a letter today to the premier, urging such steps.

    They should be testing for airborne contaminants as soon as possible.
    Mount Polley-Hazeltine Creek-soft, silty mud
    Soft, silty mud left in Hazeltine Creek after tailings dam breach. Consultant Rick Holmes worries that as it dries, the dust will become airborne (Carol Linnitt /
    Holmes’ concerns are compounded by the drying out of parts of the flood zone in recent days, which he fears could lead to more airborne contaminants when the debris caked onto trees and the banks of Hazeltine Creek turns to dust.

    At 9 pm Wednesday, he emailed Jennifer McGuire, Executive Director, Regional Operations for Environmental Protection at the Ministry of Environment, asking: “Are investigations of the impact of airborn contamination being undertaken? I noted in my flight of the area 2 days ago that considerable sized areas were drying out and I’m wondering if contaminated dust is being broadcast.”

    “Additionally is it safe for cleanup crews to be handling the wood debris without dust masks at the very least? Are gloves sufficient…what about protective clothing…do the contaminants get absorbed by the skin through clothing or by not wearing gloves?” Holmes asked, regarding community members who have been engaged to perform initial cleanup work.

    At 8:30 this morning, McGuire wrote back:

    The ministry is aware of the emerging dust issue related to the breach. Arvind Saraswat – the Ministry Air Quality Section head and former Air Quality meteorologist in Williams Lake – is working on assessing the dust situation and will be providing information/direction to the company regarding suppression and mitigation needed. Arvind will be in touch with you.
    This evening Holmes told me that Saraswat attempted to contact him today, but they were unable to connect as Holmes has been in the field, further investigating the situation on the ground. He hopes to speak with the ministry official tomorrow to see what steps the government is prepared to take.

    Chemical contaminants part of equation?
    Though he’s not a toxicologist, Holmes acknowledged to me the presence of other potential contaminants besides heavy metal tailings in the mining process which may be of concern. He has worked around mining operations, including Mount Polley – also a client of Cariboo Envirotech.

    One such set of contaminants, used in the milling process – after ore has been mined from the ground – is referred to as “chemical reagents”.

    According to John Werring, a salmon biologist with the David Suzuki Foundation, the two main chemical reagents being used at Mount Polley - acknowledged by Imperial Metals – are sodium diethyl dithiophosphate and potassium amyl xanathate. “The problem with mining operations in Canada is that, for the most part, the kinds and amounts of chemicals that are used to extract the ore are trade secrets and therefore are not reportable in any kind of a forum or database.” Thus, mines like Mount Polley don’t need to report the concentrations of these chemicals in the materials they discharge into the tailings reservoirs.

    Werring’s not jumping to any conclusions about potential health impacts from these chemicals, but he does feel there are many unanswered questions surrounding the issue, given the toxic nature of these substances.

    “These two particular chemicals are highly toxic,” Werring warns.

    Sodium diethyl dithiophosphate is a level three poison. It has impacts on human beings and…it’s specifically stated is highly toxic to aquatic life. Potassium amyl xanathate, similarly, is highly toxic to aquatic life. What we don’t know is how much has been discharged in these tailings, we don’t know the fate of these potential chemicals once they get in the tailings pond.
    An independent 2011 report conducted for two First Nations and Mount Polley Mining Corporation by Brian Olding & Associates found that, “On an annual bases, based on water use and production, Mount Polley produces a value of approximately 7 mg/L [of potassium amyl xanthate]“. According to Werring, these are levels “higher than can support aquatic life”. That said, the report stipulated, “the vast majority of this will actually bind to the concentrate solid and will not be found in the water that is sent to the tailings pond.”

    Werring responds: “That’s a wonderful statement to say, but nobody is measuring.” Moreover, “There is absolutely no mention of the kinds and concentrations and the treatment of sodium diethyl dithiophosphate, which is even more toxic.”

    Even the heavy metals in Mount Polley’s tailings, which are not ordinarily subject to acid rock drainage,when contained under water, are now exposed to weathering, says Werring. That creates the potential for acid rock draininage, oxidation and other changes that could render them more harmful to the environment than previously thought – especially on a longer-term basis.

    Something in the air?
    A study by the Centre for Disease Control on Chemical-related injuries and illnesses in U.S. mining lists inhalation as one of three main pathways for mining-related chemicals to enter the body. “Inhaled chemicals can cause acute responses such as nausea, headaches, shortness of breath and asphyxiation,” the paper states, “or they can have chronic outcomes such as central nervous system disorders and respira*tory illnesses.”

    Out of 2,705 cases of workplace injury reported to the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration’s employment and accident, in*jury and illness database – from 1999 through 2006 – roughly a third came from inhalation.

    It is impossible to say without proper testing what potentially airborne particulate or chemicals such as reagents could be emanating from sludge and water spilled by the breached containment facility. Or whether these or other contaminants could be impacting the health of people close to the disaster.

    It is also premature to rule out health impacts from chemicals which have been used in Mount Polley’s processing without any information from the company about volumes of chemicals in their effluent. My calls on the subject to Imperial Metals’ communications officer have gone unanswered yesterday and today. I’m still waiting on a response from the Ministry’s media relations with regards to these questions.
  19. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    “My home is destroyed”
    As for Sylvia Palm, she doesn’t yet feel comfortable returning to her home of 40 years on Quesnel Lake. “My home is destroyed,” she told me by phone yesterday.

    She’s taken her concerns to various authorities, with little to show for it. First, the Cariboo Regional District told her the matter was beyond their jurisdiction, referring her to the Ministry of Health. There, Palm was pointed instead to the Ministry of Environment, where she spoke with Cassandra Caunce, Regional Director for Environmental Protection, Thompson/Cariboo (calls to Ms. Caunce were not returned by the time of this publication).

    “From what we’re hearing, everything’s OK,” Palm says Caunce told her, suggesting she try speaking with a medical practitioner. Upon an initial visit to the Williams Lake Hospital earlier this week, a nurse there found elevated blood pressure and prescribed an anti-histamine, guessing from her symptoms that Palm may have experienced an allergic reaction.

    Palm has an appointment with a doctor next week, when she plans to ask for a sample of her blood to be taken and tested for contaminants.

    Echoing Holmes’ questions to the ministry, Palm says, “One of my biggest concerns is that community members are beginning to clean up the beaches of Quesnel Lake around Likely and to my knowledge they’re not using proper protection.”

    You err on the side of caution when people’s health is at risk.
    Meanwhile, Clow continues drawing attention to the fact that part of the government and company’s “cleanup” plan involves pumping contaminated water out of Polley Lake, into Hazeltine Creek, and, ultimately Quesnel Lake, which in turn connects to the Fraser River.

    This is what they are currently dumping into Lake Quesnel and into the Fraser River,” Clow wrote on August 11. “Understand that this is on its way as I type this.”

    In the coming days, we will continue seeking answers to these vital questions and bringing readers video highlights from Jeremy Williams’ trip to the region – including firsthand accounts of the disaster and health effects experienced by early responders.
  20. agentaqua

    agentaqua Well-Known Member

    Lakes across Canada face being turned into mine dump sites

    Lakes are in B.C., Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, NWT and Nunavut

    By Terry Milewski , CBC News Posted: Jun 16, 2008 6:39 PM ET Last Updated: Jun 16, 2008 9:42 PM ET

    A map showing lakes slated to be reclassified as tailings impoundment areas (PDF)
    (Note: CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external links.)

    Bush pilot Doug Beaumont and environmentalist Jim Bourquin fish on Kluela Lake, downstream from the planned dump site for the Red Chris gold and copper mining project in northwestern B.C. ((Terry Milewski/CBC))

    CBC News has learned that 16 Canadian lakes are slated to be officially but quietly "reclassified" as toxic dump sites for mines. The lakes include prime wilderness fishing lakes from B.C. to Newfoundland.

    Environmentalists say the process amounts to a "hidden subsidy" to mining companies, allowing them to get around laws against the destruction of fish habitat.

    Lakes proposed for use as mine tailings ponds:

    Since the introduction of Schedule Two of mining effluent regulations under the Fisheries Act, in 2002, 16 lakes have been proposed for reclassification as tailings dumps.
    Four of the 16 are already being used as dumps — all in Newfoundland. Two of those are at the Duck Pond Mine and the other two are older mines due to be brought under Schedule Two retroactively.

    Only one of the 16 — Kemess North in B.C. — has been turned down. Eight are to be decided in the coming year.


    Kemess North - Duncan Lake - REJECTED.
    Kutcho Creek - Andrea Creek.
    Ruby Creek - Ruby Creek watershed.
    Prosperity - Fish Lake.
    Red Chris.
    Mount Milligan.

    Bucko Lake.
    Newfoundland and Labrador:

    Duck Pond Mine - Trout Pond and Gill's Brook.
    Carol Mine - Wabush Lake.
    Wabush Mine - Flora Lake.
    Long Harbour - Sandy Pond.
    Northwest Territories:

    Winter Lake.

    Doris North Project - Tail Lake.
    Meadowbank - Second Portage Lake.
    High Lake.
    Under the Fisheries Act, it's illegal to put harmful substances into fish-bearing waters. But, under a little-known subsection known as Schedule Two of the mining effluent regulations, federal bureaucrats can redefine lakes as "tailings impoundment areas."

    That means mining companies don't need to build containment ponds for toxic mine tailings.

    CBC News visited two examples of Schedule Two lakes. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the Vale Inco company wants to use a prime destination for fishermen known as Sandy Pond to hold tailings from a nickel processing plant.

    In northern B.C., Imperial Metals plans to enclose a remote watershed valley to hold tailings from a gold and copper mine. The valley lies in what the native Tahltan people call the "Sacred Headwaters" of three major salmon rivers. It also serves as spawning grounds for the rainbow trout of Kluela Lake, which is downstream from the dump site.

    Lakes 'safest option': mining association

    Vale Inco's proposal was the subject of a public meeting on June 10 in Long Harbour, N.L. Billed as a "public consultation" on the proposal, the meeting was attended by government officials, mining executives, environmentalists and fishermen.

    Lakes are often the best way for mine tailings to be contained, said Elizabeth Gardiner, vice-president for technical affairs for the Mining Association of Canada.

    "In some cases, particularly in Canada, with this kind of topography and this number of natural lakes and depressions and ponds … in the end it's really the safest option for human health and for the environment," she said.

    But Catherine Coumans, spokeswoman for the environmental group Mining Watch, said the federal government is making it too easy. She said federal officials are increasingly using the obscure Schedule Two regulations to quietly reclassify lakes and other waters as tailings dumps.

    Jim Bourquin, centre, of the Cassiar Watch Society, says the decision by federal officials to turn a fish-bearing habitat into a waste management area is "totally bizarre." ((CBC))

    "Something that used to be a lake — or a river, in fact, they can use rivers — by being put on this section two of this regulation is no longer a river or a lake," she said. "It's a tailings impoundment area. It's a waste disposal site. It's an industrial waste dump."

    Coumans said the procedure amounts to a subsidy to the industry and enables mines to get around the Fisheries Act.

    "What Canadians need to know is that this year, from March 2008 to March of 2009, eight lakes are going to be subject to being put on Schedule Two, which is just about every mine that is going ahead this year is looking around, looking for the nearest lake to dump its waste into."

    A local environmentalist who attended the Long Harbour meeting, Chad Griffiths, said of Sandy Pond: "It's easy enough to consider just one lake as just one lake, as a needed sacrifice, right? But it's not one lake … It's a trend. It's an open season on Canadian water."

    'Open season on Canadian water': environmentalist

    A test case: the Red Chris Mine in northwestern B.C.

    Steve Robertson, exploration manager for Imperial Metals, says any risk to the environment from the Red Chris mine will be carefully managed. ((CBC))

    Last fall, a Federal Court judge ruled that federal bureaucrats acted illegally in trying to fast-track the Red Chris copper and gold mine without a full and public environmental review.

    The decision put the project on hold, but late last week, the Federal Appeals Court reversed the decision, paving the way for federal officials to declare lakes to be dumps without public consultation.

    Imperial Metals said in a release Monday that federal authorities "are now authorized to issue regulatory approvals for the Red Chris project to proceed," although the matter could still be appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

    In the earlier decision, Justice Luc Martineau overturned the decision by federal officials to skip a public review, saying it "has all the characteristics of a capricious and arbitrary decision which was taken for an improper purpose."

    He also found those officials "committed a reviewable error by deciding to forgo the public consultation process which the project was statutorily mandated to undergo."

    The dump site includes two small lakes in a Y-shaped valley. Imperial Metals plans to build three dams to contain mine tailings within the valley. But environmentalists say there is no way to stop effluent leaking downstream in groundwater.

    James Dennis, an elder with the local Tahltan people, says he fears his grandchildren will be the ones who will have to live with polluted water. ((CBC))

    Jim Bourquin of the Cassiar Watch Society, a conservation group, said Kluela Lake, immediately downstream from the site, is "one of the best trout fishing lakes in northern B.C."

    "This is a precedent-setting decision by the federal government to start using fish-bearing habitat as a waste management area," Bourquin said. "It's totally bizarre for the federal government to come here and say that this Y-shaped valley up here is no longer a fish habitat, it's no longer sacred headwaters, it's just a waste dump site."

    But Steve Robertson, exploration manager for Imperial Metals, told CBC News the dump site will be sealed and that the economic benefits of the planned Red Chris mine will be enormous.

    "This is a project that can bring a lot of good jobs, long-term jobs, well-paying jobs to a community that desperately needs it," Robertson said.

    He added that the total investment over the 25-year life of the mine would be about half a billion dollars and that the risk to the environment will be carefully managed.

    "Tailings are part of the mining process," Robertson said, "and, if treated properly, if they're built into a proper structure and kept submerged, they should be able to withstand the test of time and actually not pose a detriment to the environment."

    But James Dennis, a 76-year-old elder of the local Tahltan people, told CBC News he doesn’t buy that.

    "We want it stopped," said Dennis, who lives in the native village of Iskut, 18 kilometres northwest of the mine site. "We want to stop the mine … The animals will be drinking that water and they'll all be polluted too.

    "Once they do the mine, they’re going to leave, and we're the people who are going to live with that. Not me, but my grandchildren, the small little kids like this. That's who's going to live with the pollution."

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