Phase 1 cleanup done at site of B.C.’s Mount Polley mine disaster – by Andrea Woo (Globe and Mail – July 29, 2015)

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One year after a catastrophic dam breach, the Mount Polley Mine in B.C.’s interior has passed the first phase of remediation and resumed operations, with restrictions.

The August, 2014, dam failure sent millions of cubic metres of mine waste and water into area waterways and forced the government to toughen mine permitting requirements. Imperial Metals Corp. has completed Phase 1 cleanup by taking steps to ensure increased water flow at Mount Polley does not result in additional environmental or human health impacts, according to the B.C. Ministry of Environment. The company has also ensured that water quality entering Quesnel Lake meets provincial standards.

Environment Minister Mary Polak said in a briefing on Wednesday that a “significant amount of work” has been done in the past 12 months, but acknowledged full remediation and restoration will take years.

The B.C. government issued the conditional permit allowing the Mount Polley mine to reopen earlier this month. However, the company cannot discharge water until it receives a second conditional permit, likely in the early fall.

The company must also submit a long-term water treatment and discharge plan to both the Environment and Mines ministries by next June.

The tailings pond dam at the Mount Polley Mine collapsed last August, spilling 24-million cubic metres of mine waste and water into area lakes and waterways in B.C.’s Cariboo region. A report by an expert panel released last January found that the structure collapsed because it was built on a foundation underlain with glacial silt.

Ms. Polak said the government has spent about $6-million on its share of the cleanup, but will be looking to recover costs it is entitled to.

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