COMMENTARY: Mount Polley mine disaster’s first anniversary is no reason to celebrate – by Ana Simeon and Ugo Lapointe (The – July 31, 2015)

Ana Simeon is with Sierra Club B.C. Ugo Lapointe is with MiningWatch Canada.

On August 4 last year, Quesnel Lake residents and communities along the Fraser River were eagerly anticipating one of the largest sockeye returns in recent history.

What they got instead was a nightmare: over 24 billion litres of mine waste burst through Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley dam into their watershed.

Mount Polley is the largest mining waste spill in Canada’s history. The consequences and overall costs of this disaster concern us all, including a steep cost on the industry’s reputation and public trust.

Yet a year later, the mine is running again under a restricted permit. While both the company and the B.C. government attempt to be reassuring, many questions remain unanswered.

What are the long-term impacts of the tailings breach on the local ecosystems? Initial water bans warned people not to drink or bathe. Quesnel Lake rose seven centimetres after the spill and its temperature increased by 2.5 degrees. The long-term effects of contaminants found in samples will need monitoring. The toxins are of concern to human health, animals, and aquatic life.

Despite approval to restart, there are still no long-term plans regarding site clean-up costs, water treatment, and mining wastes management. The B.C. government is not being precautionary enough. Locally impacted First Nations and communities are being forced to live with risks and too few answers.

What kind of financial assurance do we have from Imperial Metals to cover clean-up costs, damages, perpetual care of the site, or costs from other potential failures?

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