Whether it was an act of God or the fault of negligent mine operators, the cause of Mount Polley mine spill — the worst mining disaster in Canadian history — remains officially undetermined, leaving local residents in a frustrated state of limbo.
One year ago this week the Mount Polley mine tailings impoundment collapsed, sending a catastrophic 24 million cubic metres of contaminated mining waste down the Hazeltine Creek and into Quesnel Lake, a local source of drinking water and in peak years can host up to 60 per cent of the province’s sockeye salmon run.
The province of B.C. says the Mount Polley Mining Corporation, owned by Imperial Metals, is still under investigation although some fear a January report that found glacial silt responsible for the instability of the collapsed tailings pond may take culpability away from the company.
Kanahus Manuel, a local indigenous activist and member of the Secwepemc First Nation, said the province’s decision to approve a partial re-opening of the Mount Polley mine last month signals to the media and the public that the company is without blame.
“The province giving the permit to Mount Polley was very irresponsible,” she said. “Mount Polley still under investigation and they haven’t cleaned up this disaster.”
Manuel doesn’t believe the reason for the tailings pond collapse was due to the presence of glacial silt.
“According to the people who worked here at the mine it was negligence. The dam wasn’t built properly and the company was not giving workers the proper material, the rock material, they needed to stabilize it.”
“That needs to be addressed,” she said. “They’re getting away with it.”
Long-term Impacts of Mount Polley Spill Unknown
Manuel said she marked the one-year anniversary of the spill at a protest at the entrance to the mine with about 100 other individuals from as far away as Vancouver and Montreal.
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