Before the dust had even settled on Mount Polley, mine owner Imperial Metals was active again in British Columbia’s Clayoquot Sound. This finding was announced in Who’s Knocking?, a report on mineral tenures in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The report, released by Clayoquot Action in partnership with Fair Mining Collaborative, details who is looking for minerals in Clayoquot Sound, and what types of minerals they are looking for.
Twenty years ago when someone said “Clayoquot,” protests against clearcutting of old growth forests came to mind. At that time nobody thought anybody was crazy enough to propose an open-pit copper mine in the heart of Clayoquot Sound.
Fast-forward 20 years, and somebody is crazy enough to make such a proposal: Imperial Metals. That’s right, Imperial Metals, who operates Mount Polley mine, home to one of the largest mining disasters in the world, has been exploring the potential for two mines in Clayoquot Sound, in unceded Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht First Nations territories.
Who’s Knocking? shows that 5.8 per cent of Clayoquot Sound is under some form of mineral title, with a total of 257 claims held by 23 licensees. As recently as five years ago, 24.5 per cent of the region was under mineral tenure — the area staked has fallen due to low mineral prices. This highlights the “boom and bust” nature of the mining industry. No doubt claim staking will increase again when metal prices rebound.
Premier Christy Clark clearly wants to see more mines opening in B.C. This January, she announced millions of dollars in funding to fast track the permitting and approval of new mines. Since the Mount Polley disaster, her government has approved two new mines, including Red Chris, a contentious Imperial Metals mine in the Sacred Headwaters region of Tahltan First Nations territory.
The B.C. government appointed the Mount Polley review panel to determine why that dam failed. Their January report firmly rejected “any notion that business as usual can continue.”
They called for an end to underwater storage of toxic tailings behind dams that could fail, causing irreparable environmental damage. They recommended shifting to “best available technology” such as dry-stacking tailings.
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