Mount Polley mine tailings spill: Imperial Metals could face $1M fine (CBC News British Columbia – August 06, 2014)

Company ordered to stop pollution immediately and provide environmental impact assessment

Bill Bennett, B.C’s minister of energy and mines, says Imperial Metals will have to acknowledge and pay for any mistakes that led to the massive breach earlier this week of the tailings pond at its mine in central B.C.

The breach of the tailings pond dam at the copper and gold mine near Likely, B.C., released 10 billion litres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of metals-laden fine sand, contaminating several lakes, creeks and rivers in the Cariboo region on Monday.

Speaking at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Bennett said a pollution abatement order had been issued to Mount Polley Mining Corp., owned by Imperial Metals. If the firm does not comply, it could face fines of up to $1 million.

“If the company has made some mistakes… they will have to bear the responsibility,” Bennett told reporters in Williams Lake.

The order requires the company to take immediate action to stop the further release of mine tailings into nearby waterways and to submit environmental impact assessments and clean-up action plans to the ministry.

The minister said government inspectors are on site to conduct an investigation to determine how the tailings pond’s wall collapsed.

As part of that investigation, inspectors will interview all staff at the Mount Polley Mine, including those who used to work for the company.

Bennett said it’s too early to tell what type of threat the mine’s waste products pose to humans and wildlife.

“We will have a much better idea 24 hours from now on the quality in Quesnel Lake,” he said.

The minister confirmed Imperial Metals had been warned once before about high water levels in its tailings pond.

Imperial Metals was asked to remove water after a site inspection in May.

Government collecting water samples

Jennifer McGuire, a manager with the provincial Environment Ministry, said crews are collecting water samples and results are expected Thursday.

In sampling, McGuire said inspectors will be looking for metals, nitrates and sulphates. McGuire said crews have not yet found any dead fish in Quesnel Lake.

The government is asking any residents who find dead fish to contact the Environment Ministry. Meantime, Al Richmond, Cariboo Regional Chair, said residents affected by the water ban are a priority.

Richmond said delivering water to residents and securing portable shower facilities will continue Thursday.

The next public meeting will be also be held Thursday in Likely.

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