Mount Polley to re-open after last year’s disaster – by Mary Catharine Martin (Juneau Empire – July 10, 2015)

Two British Canadian ministries announced Thursday that they are allowing Imperial Metals Corporation to re-open Mount Polley mine after last August’s tailings dam failure, which released billions of gallons of toxic tailings and contaminated water into the Quesnel Lake watershed. Southeast Alaskans concerned about Canada’s mining boom decried the move, saying the authorization ignores detailed recommendations of an independent review panel whose report was released earlier this year.

This is the first of three steps Mount Polley will need to begin operating as it did this time last year, said Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett and Minister of Environment Mary Polak in a press release. They’ve granted the company the ability to begin conditional operations; it will not be able to release water from the site.

“In the early fall, the company will need a second conditional permit to treat and discharge water in order for operations to continue. Lastly, the company must submit a long-term water treatment and discharge plan to government by June 30, 2016. The mine will not be authorized to continue to operate long-term if it fails to complete either of the last two steps,” Bennett said in the press release.

That does not address Southeast Alaskans’ concerns, says Salmon Beyond Borders, an organization that describes itself as “a growing community of sport and commercial fishermen, community leaders, tribal citizens, First Nations, tourism and recreation business owners and concerned citizens united across the Alaska/British Columbia border.”

“Alaska Natives, commercial fishing interests, business owners, community leaders and others are deeply concerned that the same ‘develop at all costs’ approach is being applied to mining in transboundary watersheds in northern B.C., including the Taku, Stikine and Unuk rivers that flow into Alaska,” Salmon Beyond Borders’ press release said.

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