Nine Months After Polley Breach, Alaskans Seek Compensation Guarantee from BC – by Jordan Wong ( – May 29, 2015)

Proposed northern BC mines ‘source of great angst in Juneau.’

Earlier this month, Heather Hardcastle, a commercial fisherwoman from Juneau, Alaska met in Williams Lake, B.C. with members of the Tsilhqot’in First Nation. They shared a meal of wild Alaskan salmon that Hardcastle brought as a symbolic gesture: This fish was a reminder of all there was to lose.

After lunch, Hardcastle and her team of Alaska visitors boarded a helicopter and flew 25 minutes away to the site of the Mount Polley accident, the scene of a massive breach last August of its mine waste dam near the town of Likely, B.C.

The breach released millions of cubic metres of contaminated water into Quesnel Lake, which feeds into the Fraser River.

Nine months later, Jacinda Mack, a Xatsull woman from the Soda Creek reserve and one of many residents living near the path of the spill, invited the Alaskans to Williams Lake to see firsthand the main effect of that accident.

On the Fraser River, contamination from the mine breach threatened the run of Sockeye salmon that spawns in Quesnel Lake.

“We saw where [Mack] was raised, and where they used to fish on the Fraser where people fished for thousands of years, and they’re not fishing there anymore. It’s heartbreaking,” Hardcastle said. “It’s a stunning and gorgeous area but it was just so sad. It feels selfish to be thinking about us and our water, but it lit a fire under me. We have to do something.”

It was an eye-opening sight to Hardcastle, who lives and works in southeast Alaska, downstream from a number of open-pit mines located in northwest B.C., with more under construction and opening soon.

Hardcastle grew up in the 1970s, during which time her parents fought the B.C. Tulsequah Chief mine, located 65 kilometres north of Juneau, Alaska, which leaked acid mine drainage in 1957 and still hasn’t been cleaned up. The polluted Tulsequah River empties into the salmon-rich Taku River.

Fear Polley repeat

It’s been a “source of great angst in Juneau,” Hardcastle said. She and the Alaskans came to Canada because they don’t want to see another repeat of Tulsequah Chief or Mount Polley.

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