Category: Mining

Bingham Canyon Open Pit Copper Mine

A tale of two mines

An open-pit copper mine in the heart of Clayoquot Sound? A historic gold mine re-opened using modern technology to scour out minerals the old-timers couldn’t get at? Is this the best we can hope for, almost 25 years after the Clayoquot Summer peaceful protests put the region on the map of global ecological hotspots?

Imperial Metals sparked controversy this month when interviewed by CBC for a story on mining. When asked about Imperial’s Clayoquot Sound claims, Vice President Steve Robertson said “those mining projects are very valuable to the company, we feel they’re high priority projects”. Robertson was formerly the manager of Imperial’s Mount Polley Mine, until their tailings dam failed catastrophically in 2014, spilling 25 million cubic metres of toxic tailings and slurry into pristine Quesnel Lake—one of the biggest mining disasters in the world.

Imperial Metals is a Vancouver-based mining company. They acquired mineral tenures in Clayoquot Sound in 2009 and are considering opening two mines in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Imperial: Clayoquot projects ‘high priority’
First, the Catface Mountain copper mine. Catface is located at the geographic centre of Clayoquot Sound in Ahousaht First Nations territory. Ahousaht are a sovereign Nuu-chah-nulth nation whose territory encompasses much of Clayoquot Sound. The Ahousaht name for Catface Mountain is čitaapii (Chitaapi).

Just this winter Ahousaht announced their land use vision for their traditional territories. It clearly did not include an open pit copper mine right across the channel from their village on Flores Island. A mine operating only 3 kilometres away with audible blasting and bright lights 24/7 has the potential to drastically alter life in the village, with serious and long-term social, health and environmental impacts. Imperial’s proclamation flies in the face of the expressed veto of the Ahousaht people.

Imperial’s second proposal is to re-open the abandoned Fandora gold mine in Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations territory—in Tla-o-qui-aht’s Tranquil Tribal Park. In 2013, Vancouver-based Selkirk Metals (owned by Imperial Metals Corporation) was granted an exploration permit despite a veto from Tla-o-qui-aht. They are not satisfied with the level of consultation by the company or the BC government.

Urgent need to modernize mining legislation
Unfortunately, a First Nations veto on a mining project does not mean the BC government and mining companies will give up. Just look at the case of Tsilhqot’in Nation’s attempts to protect Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) in their territories.

The federal government has twice rejected Taseko’s Prosperity Mine proposal, yet the company is applying for exploration permits to keep the project alive, suing the federal government and seeking unspecified compensation for their decisions, and appealing its court loss regarding defamation charges made against the Wilderness Committee.

And remember, defeating a mine proposal costs communities a million dollars each time.

British Columbia’s Mineral Tenure Act is still based on a ‘free entry’ system which has been abandoned in many other jurisdictions, including Alberta. For over 150 years mining activity has been given priority over virtually all other land uses and generated conflict over mining activity throughout BC. In 2013, the District of Tofino put forward a resolution at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) annual conference calling on the provincial government to work with First Nations, local governments, industry and citizens to modernize BC’s mining laws. The resolution was passed with overwhelming support.

Mining ban needed for Clayoquot Sound
The quest for continued growth on a finite planet is forcing the global commodity market to look for scarce resources in places that were considered off-limits 20-30 years ago. Most of the good ore bodies on the planet have been mined out—companies are now looking to marginal deposits like Catface and Fandora. If not Imperial, if not now; some day, some company will want to try to open these mines in Clayoquot Sound.

Currently, only the BC government has the power to hand out mining permits. Therefore only the BC government has the power to ban mining legally—for now. Clayoquot Action is calling on the province to support the land-use visions of the local First Nations whose rights and title to these lands have never been extinguished. From Ahousaht and Tla-o-qui-aht to the District of Tofino and the Chamber of Commerce—there is a broad consensus that Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is not the right place for mining activities.

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.

You can watch CBC’s full coverage here. The Clayoquot mining story starts at 12:32.

Please sign SumOfUs’ petition to Imperial Metals. Help us reach 50,000 signatures!


MiningWatch heads into the Williams Lake court

Legal action over Mount Polley disaster

On October 18th, Clayoquot Action joined MiningWatch Canada in Williams Lake to support their launch of private prosecution against Imperial Metals and the BC government for the 2014 Mount Polley Mine disaster.

This legal action is supported by more than a dozen non-profit organizations including Wilderness Committee, Amnesty International, First Nations Women Advocating for Responsible Mining (FNWARM), Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake, Kamloops Area Preservation Association, and Sierra Club.

Largest mining disaster in Canadian history
The 25 million cubic metre spill near Likely was the largest in Canadian history. The sheer volume and velocity of the spill instantly killed fish, destroyed a 9 km section of Hazeltine Creek, filled both Polley and Quesnel Lakes with tons of toxic slurry mine waste, triggered drinking water bans, and significantly affected downstream livelihoods. Continue reading

Mining threat looms over Kamloops

(Editor: Imperial Metals, of Mount Polley infamy, is considering two mines in Clayoquot Sound. If they ever actually apply for a mine development permit, the clock begins ticking—local communities would have 6 months to participate in an Environmental Assessment process, which in BC has never refused a mine permit. Clayoquot Action invited Kamloops resident Dr. Ross Friedman to describe her experience with the EA process.)

KGHM Ajax Mining Inc. (a Polish-owned corporation) wants to dig a huge, noisy, dusty open-pit copper and gold mine near Kamloops, BC, a city of 90,000 people. The mine would be within 1.4 kilometres of the nearest residences, and within 2 kilometres from the nearest elementary school. Continue reading

BC Auditor General slams mining

Auditor General Carol Bellringer issued a scathing report after completing a two-year audit of mining regulation in British Columbia, writing “Almost all of our expectations for a robust compliance and enforcement program were not met. The compliance and enforcement activities of both the Ministry of Energy and Mines, and the Ministry of Environment are not set up to protect the province from environmental risks.”

Bellringer’s report identified water contamination as the major risk to the environment from mining activities. This is especially critical in British Columbia, where water often supports populations of wild salmon. While government enforcement has been declining, the risk can only increase as lower grade ore bodies are mined, creating larger quantities of waste rock, which must be stored safely in perpetuity. Continue reading

Mining harms wild salmon

The Wild Salmon Delegation came to Norway to campaign against Cermaq’s open-net pen feedlots in Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. But as the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations saying goes, hišukiš c̓aawaak—everything is connected.

Yesterday I found myself sitting inside an indigenous Sami lavvu (a teepee-like traditional dwelling) with Ahousaht First Nations citizen John Rampanen. Imagine our surprise to learn that the reindeer herder with us Continue reading

Who’s Knocking?

Before the dust had even settled on the Mount Polley Mine disaster, owner Imperial Metals was active again in Clayoquot Sound. This finding was published in Who’s Knocking?, a report on mineral tenures in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The report, by Clayoquot Action in partnership with the Fair Mining Collaborative, details who is looking for minerals in Clayoquot Sound, and what types of minerals they are looking for. Continue reading

Hummingbirds—yes we can!

John Snyder is President of the CoalWatch Comox Valley Society

Compliance Coal’s withdrawal of their latest Application for the proposed Raven Coal Mine Project from the BC Environmental Assessment Office’s evaluation screening process is a significant setback for Compliance, and a victory for those who have opposed this ill-advised project for more than 5 years.

The Raven Coal Mine Project planned to build and operate an underground coal mine only 5 kilometres from Fanny Bay and Baynes Sound on the east side of Vancouver Island and ship the processed coal by truck to a proposed coal port in Port Alberni on the west side of Vancouver Island. Continue reading

Imperial Metals: April Fools?

Clayoquot Action is watching closely how Imperial Metals handles their Mount Polley Mine disaster. Why? Because the same company has plans for 2 new mines right here in Clayoquot Sound.

On April 1st an application filed by Imperial Metals for a restricted re-start of its Mount Polley mine was accepted for formal review. The BC government announced a 30-day public comment period with a deadline of April 30th. A decision on whether or not to issue the permits will be made in early June.

Continue reading

Mount Polley report: no more ‘business as usual’

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.

On January 30, the BC government released the report of an independent panel appointed to determine the cause of the dam failure at Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley mine last summer. When that dam failed, 25 million cubic metres of toxic slurry flowed into Polley Lake, down Hazeltine Creek and into the pristine waters of Quesnel Lake—home to one quarter of the Fraser River’s sockeye salmon. Continue reading

Mount Polley Eyewitness Video

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.

It was a dark and stormy night—October 21st—the night of Clayoquot Action’s Mount Polley Eyewitness Report presentation in Tofino. The evening featured Nitanis Desjarlais, Dan Lewis and Bonny Glambeck who had all traveled from the west coast to witness the Mount Polley disaster. Continue reading