tailings pond

‘Industrialization of the Wilderness’: Wade Davis on the Northwest Transmission Line

An ugly thread of misspent taxpayer dollars, environmental destruction and conflict-of-interest — backed by a government beholden to the mining industry — runs along the recently completed Northwest Transmission Line, charges acclaimed explorer and scholar Wade Davis.

The $716-million transmission line, budgeted in 2010 at $404-million, snakes 344 kilometres into B.C.’s wilderness, from north of Terrace to Bob Quinn Lake, and, to the alarm of downstream Southeast Alaska residents, the line is opening the area to mining in the headwaters of vital salmon-bearing rivers.

Those concerns have grown exponentially since the Mount Polley tailings dam collapsed in August 2014, sending 24-million cubic metres of toxic debris flowing into Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake, and groups in B.C. and Alaska are warning that a Mount Polley-type disaster in the area known as the Sacred Headwaters, where acidity is likely to be high, would wipe out the multi-billion dollar fishing and tourism industries on both sides of the border.

One Year In, Likely Residents Remain Frustrated with Superficial Cleanup of Mount Polley Mine Spill

Gary and Peggy Zorn lost their livelihood in the wake of the Mount Polley mining disaster one year ago today, the couple explained, after foreign tourists lost the desire to experience the region as a travel destination renowned for its wildlife.

Gary Zorn, adorned with the impressive title of “bear whisperer,” said their eco-tour grizzly-watching outfit lost hundreds of thousands of dollars the day the mine’s tailings pond breached sending as estimated 24 million cubic metres of contaminated mining waste down the Hazeltine Creek and into Quesnel Lake, a local source of drinking water.

The Zorns said in the year that has passed since the spill, the mine, owned by Imperial Metals, has only completed a superficial cleanup in the area, leaving a lingering stain on both the environment and the region’s reputation.

It’s pretty quiet here,” Gary Zorn said. “The businesses are suffering quite a bit here in Likely because of the damage the breach has done.”

It’s not just what the breach did environmentally to us; it’s what has happened with the bad publicity we got when this went around the world. That also hurt everybody here.”

Alaskans to Commemorate Anniversary of Mount Polley Mine Disaster as Similar Accidents Predicted to Increase

One year after 24 million cubic metres of mine sludge and water swept into rivers and lakes below Imperial Metal’s Mount Polley mine in B.C., Southeast Alaskans will gather to commemorate the tailings pond breach and bless the Stikine River.

Those at the Aug. 2 gathering in Wrangell, where the salmon-rich Stikine runs into the ocean, will also be looking for ways to ensure there is no Mount Polley-style disaster in the B.C. headwaters of the Iskut River, a major tributary of the Stikine, where Imperial Metals has opened the Red Chris mine.

The ceremony will be hosted by Wrangell Cooperative Association, and tribal administrator Aaron Angerman said he hopes other Southeast Alaskan communities will follow suit and hold their own ceremonies.

I am frightened to think that what happened at Mount Polley could happen here in our backyard now that the Red Chris mine is operational — that the fish we’ve relied on traditionally for thousands of years could be contaminated or disappear, that the local commercial fishing industry could be decimated and that we could see the local businesses that rely on the industry close doors,” he said.

B.C. Approves Partial Reopening of Mount Polley Mine Despite Major Unanswered Questions About Tailings Spill

Mount Polley Mine Site, Carol Linnitt

Nearly one year after the catastrophic collapse of the Mount Polley mine tailings pond, which sent an estimated 25 million cubic metres of contaminated mining waste and water into Quesnel Lake, the project is permitted to partially reopen.

The B.C. government approved a permit to temporarily restart the gold and copper mine at half capacity even though the company has no long-term plan to deal with an abundance of water on site. A backlog of water, which overburdened the tailings storage pit, contributed to the accident last August according to an engineering panel that investigated the incident.

Mines Minister Bill Bennett said the province will approve the short-term permit while the mine figures out how to deal with the excess water.

Our choice was: Do we wait for them for a year to do absolutely everything that shows they have a long-term plan, or let them operate for a few months and get people working again and allow the company to earn some revenue, given there’s no negative impact to the environment?” Bennett said.

Breach of Trust: Opposing Factions Divide Likely, B.C., Months After Mount Polley Mine Spill

“I’m surprised that nobody has been killed here since the spill.”

That’s what one resident of Likely, B.C., recently told me at her home near Quesnel Lake, the site of the Mount Polley mine disaster that sent 24 million cubic metres of mining waste into the lake last August.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity she said she was warned by another community member about discussing the Mount Polley mine spill with journalists.

Be careful, they said to me. Be careful.”

She said another woman, who lives up the road, received three separate threatening phone calls after speaking with a television crew in the wake of the spill.

One person told her she should mind her own goddam business.”

Marilyn Baptiste Wins Prestigious Goldman Prize, Elevates Indigenous Struggle Against Mines

Marilyn Baptiste of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation in British Columbia has won the prestigious $175,000 Goldman Prize  for her five-year effort to prevent construction of the Prosperity gold and copper mine 600 kilometres north of Vancouver.

I hope the Goldman award will bring world recognition to help us protect our land,” Baptiste told DeSmog Canada.  “We’d like to improve our lives, but our land and water comes first.”

That simple statement echoes the words of millions of indigenous peoples in Canada and around the world facing governments and industries intent on extracting minerals, oil, coal, gas and timber from their lands.

It’s the same story everywhere,” she said.

However, the beginnings of a new story may be in the works in Canada. Baptiste is a member of the Tsilhqot’in people who won a landmark Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2014 that granted aboriginal title to more than a 1,750-square-kilometre area in the Cariboo-Chilcotin area.

Alaskans Ring Alarm Bells Over Potential for More Mount Polley Disasters As B.C. Pushes Forward With New Mines

Worried Alaskans who fear lucrative fisheries and tourism industries are at risk from lax B.C. oversight of mine safety are meeting with state officials next week to ask the U.S. State Department to push for more input on mine development along the border of northwest B.C. and southeast Alaska.

We are calling for an equal seat at the table. We want equal representation on the part of Americans and Alaskans when it comes to how these watersheds are developed,” said Heather Hardcastle, a commercial salmon fisher based in Juneau.

We take all the risks and the costs and get none of the benefits.”

Hardcastle is a member of a coalition of Alaskan mayors, First Nations, businessmen and fishers who were horrified by the Mount Polley tailings pond collapse last August. Their concerns were exacerbated by last week’s provincial government report that found a weak foundation and design were responsible for the failure that saw an estimated 25 million cubic metres of waste water and toxic sludge flood from the copper and gold mine’s tailings pond into rivers and lakes.

DeSmogCAST 8: Oilsands Tailings Ponds, UK Drilling Imperative and Skeptics vs. Deniers

DeSmogCAST

In today's January 15, 2015 episode DeSmogCAST host Farron Cousins joins DeSmoggers Carol Linnitt, Kyla Mandel, and Mike Gaworecki to discuss Canada's efforts to prevent a NAFTA-led investigation into the management of Alberta's oilsands tailings ponds.

We also discuss a clause in the UK's new Infrastructure Bill that mandates efforts to “maximize economic recovery of UK petroleum” and what that means for the nation's climate policy.

Lastly we discuss recent developments in the denier/skeptics debate and a recent open letter to media, calling on journalists to reserve the favourable term 'skeptic' for those engaged in truly scientific critical investigation.

Soda Creek First Nation Struggles to Cover Costs of Independent Mount Polley Water Testing

Bev Sellers

The Soda Creek First Nation, traditionally called the Xatśūll First Nation, is going to tap into band savings for a community centre to pay for independent scientists to study the local environment in the wake of the Mount Polley mine spill that sent billions of litres of mining waste in Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake.

Bev Sellars, chief of the Soda Creek said ever since the spill occurred it has been difficult to find reliable sources of information.

The reports coming out from mining and the government say everything is fine, but we don’t really believe that,” she said in an interview in Vancouver. “A disaster such as this – there are going to be long term effects.”

Major concerns for her nation have to do with the long-term effects of the spill on Quesnel Lake, which is in the traditional territory of the Soda Creek First Nation and the Williams Lake Indian Band.

State of Emergency Called for Cariboo Regional District After Mount Polley Mine Tailings Pond Breach

mount polley mine tailings pond breach in BC

Officials with the Cariboo Regional District declared a local state of emergency Wednesday after millions of cubic metres of contaminated tailings water from the Mount Polley mine flooded Hazeltine Creek early Tuesday morning, spilling into Quesnel Lake. Water drinking and water use bans have been issued for Quesnel Lake, Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek, Cariboo Creek, and the Quesnel and Cariboo River systems, up to the Fraser River, according to the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines.

The breach, caused by the collapse of a berm supporting a lake of mining waste that spanned four square kilometres, released an estimated 10 million cubic metres of water and slurry that contains toxic processing wastes including arsenic and mercury into salmon spawning and drinking waters.

The tailings pond at Mount Polley mine, operated by Imperial Metals, was used to dispose of 84,000 kilograms of arsenic, 10,000 kg of cadmium, 38,000kg of lead and 562 kg of mercury in 2013, according to company data released to Environment Canada.

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