Via The Vancouver Sun: Mine waste leak forces water-use ban on Quesnel, Cariboo River systems. Excerpt and then a comment:
As far back as 2011, concerns were raised about the tailings pond at the Mount Polley Mine. Brian Olding and Associates, an environmental consulting firm, prepared a detailed report that was submitted to the provincial Ministry of the Environment.
“We looked at the pond and we thought there was monitoring required. We wanted an emergency contingency plan in place.”
Olding was hired jointly by the Williams Lake Indian Band, the Soda Creek Indian Band and mine owner Imperial Metals to conduct an independent review of the Mount Polley Mine 75 kilometres southeast of Quesnel and prepare a technical assessment report on the proposed discharge of water from a tailings pond.
At about 3:45 a.m. on Monday the very pond he reported on was breached, sending over five million cubic metres of contaminated water and toxic slurry into Hazeltine Creek, uprooting trees with its force, and making its way toward Quesnel Lake.
By late Monday on the advice of provincial authorities, the Cariboo Regional District had issued a complete ban on drinking, swimming and bathing in the waterways surrounding the mine and extended it to include Polley Lake and all the waterways near the Mount Polley Mine, including Quesnel Lake, Cariboo Creek, Hazeltine Creek and “the entire Quesnel and Cariboo Rivers systems right to the Fraser River.”
Residents have been told not to allow pets or livestock to drink the water.
In a statement posted to the company website Tuesday morning, Imperial Metals said the breach has stabilized and that the company is relieved there is no loss of life or injury reported.
The cause of the breach remains unknown. Mine personnel and instruments detected no indication of an impending breach, the statement said.
“Exact quantities of water and tailings discharged have yet to be determined,” the statement said.
According to 2013 data released to Environment Canada on disposal of chemicals, Polley Mine disposed of almost 84,000 kg of arsenic and its compounds though tailings last year, about 1,000 kg of cadmium, 38,000 kg of lead and 562 kg of mercury. A map of the Polley Mine site on the company website suggests there is only one tailings pond on-site.
Chief Anne Louie of the Williams Lake Indian band said this is a “massive environmental disaster.” Louie, who was in meetings all day dealing with the crisis said “We held discussions with the mine staff related to the potential of this situation occurring. We have a report that we worked on a couple of years ago.” Louie said she will be having community meetings to address the issues in the coming days.
The ban will cover at least 300 people in the region, especially in the town of Likely, said Al Richmond, chairman of the Cariboo Regional District. The ban will stay in place until water samples have been analyzed.
This is not just a minor local problem. The discharge could move downstream into the Fraser River, which is a major waterway supporting much of our wild salmon stock. The Fraser also runs through the province' s most productive agricultural land. We may be on the brink of an environmental disaster that's also a major public health problem.