First Nations fear the worst for B.C.’s salmon run following Mount Polley breach – by Sunny Dhillon (Globe and Mail – July 7, 2014)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

VANCOUVER — The exact effect of the Mount Polley spill on B.C. salmon is not yet known, but with the sockeye just entering the Fraser River – and more than one million fish heading directly for the region hit by the mining waste – First Nations and conservation groups are fearing the worst.

Concern about the sockeye’s survival and whether the fish is safe to eat has emerged as another front in the resource battle between First Nations and governments, with aboriginal leaders charging the mining industry has lacked oversight, and questioning the point of the right to fish when the salmon is contaminated.

Bev Sellars, chief of the Soda Creek Indian Band, likened the area touched by the spill to a spiderweb. “When you disturb one part of the spiderweb, it affects all of it. That’s how this mine is going to affect everything,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

Ms. Sellars said test results and data have not yet come in, but the spill will certainly lead to some dead fish. “How could there not be?” she asked. She said members of her community have already seen dead salmon.

Approximately 1.5 million sockeye had been expected to head to the Quesnel region this year. About 20 per cent are believed to have already entered the Fraser River as part of their journey, with the rest expected to begin the trek north by the end of the month.

A tailings pond at the Imperial Metals’ copper and gold mine in central B.C. breached Monday, prompting the Cariboo Regional District to issue a strict water-use ban for the Quesnel Lake, Cariboo Creek, Hazeltine Creek and Polley Lake areas. The ban was then extended to include the entire Quesnel and Cariboo Rivers systems, right to the Fraser River.

Ms. Sellars said the sockeye run is immensely important to her band members.

“Our economy swims by in the river,” she said. “… Some of our community members live on $150 a month. If we didn’t have the fish and the wildlife, we wouldn’t survive.”

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