Tagged: Imperial Metals

No penalties for Mount Polley disaster

As we gathered under blue skies in Tofino on the third anniversary of the Mount Polley mining disaster, it was easy to feel connected with the T’exelc  and Xaastull First Nations in whose territories Mount Polley lies. The air was hazy with smoke from the wildfires which had forced both Nations to evacuate from their homes. The haze obscured the view of Catface Mountain, 10 kilometres north of Tofino in Ahousaht First Nations territories, where Imperial Metals is currently pursuing plans to remove the mountaintop to build an open-pit copper mine.

It’s been 3 years since the disaster at the Mount Polley Mine near Williams Lake changed everything for First Nations in the region. When the earthen dam of Imperial Metals’ tailings storage facility burst in the wee hours of August 4th, 25 million cubic metres of toxic sludge and slurry spilled out and ran down into Quesnel Lake, home to one quarter of the Fraser River’s sockeye population. Residents of nearby Likely woke to a sound like a roaring jet engine. To this day people do not trust the water quality of the lake they used to drink from, and expensive water filters clog up within days. It’s stunning to think that three years later, those toxic tailings have not been cleaned up—there are still tonnes of solids lining Hazeltine Creek, and lying on the bottom of Quesnel Lake.

Largest mining disaster in Canadian history
No penalties have been laid for the largest mining disaster in Canadian history. There have been several investigations and review panels, but no-one has been held responsible—not the company, nor Bill Bennett, who was the Liberal government’s minister of mining. Private prosecution was brought forward by Mining Watch Canada, but quashed when the crown prosecutor argued for a stay of proceedings, and the judge refused to hear evidence that harm had been caused to fish habitat.

The independent review panel which examined the aftermath of Mount Polley declared the disaster meant “the end of business as usual”. Yet within months, Mount Polley was allowed to resume operations—before the tailings dam was even repaired.

The third anniversary marked the deadline for laying charges under provincial laws. The BC Conservation Office spent 3 years investigating Mount Polley, raiding Imperial Metals’ offices after the disaster. However, days before the deadline they announced the investigation had not been completed in time. The federal department of fisheries was part of that investigation, and they have another two years to lay charges under the Fisheries Act.

Meanwhile Bev Sellars filed 15 private charges against Imperial on the third anniversary, under both the provincial Environmental Act and the Mines Act, saying “I could not bear to witness BC simply stepping aside and giving-up on its own responsibility to protect our shared environment and waters.” Her legal action is being by supported by MiningWatch Canada, West Coast Environmental Law, the Wilderness Committee and First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining. She was chief councillor of the Xaastull First Nation at the time of the disaster.

New BC government must take action
Many people are counting on the new government to take action to clean up BC’s mining industry. With Imperial Metals considering two mines in the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve despite opposition from Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht First Nations, we’ll be watching closely.

It felt good to gather on the third anniversary, knowing that people across Canada were also acting in solidarity with First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining. During the water ceremony led by Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations elder Levi Martin in Tofino, we passed a bowl of water around the circle, and spoke about why we appreciate water. As Levi said “We do not want Imperial Metals in Tla-o-qui-aht territory, because all the land the water and the resources belong to our children, and great-great-grandchildren. It is our responsibility to live with care, honour, respect and humility for the sake of our children and great-great-grandchildren.”

Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.

Check out Dan’s latest Mount Polley post on Huffington Post.

Douglas Magazine in Victoria just published a story about Imperial Metals’ plans for Clayoquot Sound. Begins on page 32.

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. Continue reading

Ahousaht First Nations vision

Ahousahts’ vision

Hereditary chiefs typically designate a speaker to speak for them in public. This is because when they say something, it can’t be taken back. So I was curious when I heard Chief Maquinna from Ahousaht was going to speak at a Raincoast Education Society event in Tofino about old growth forests—how was this going to work?

Lewis George is the hereditary chief of Ahousaht, and bears the traditional title m̓ukʷina (Maquinna), which he received from his late father Earl Maquinna George. The first thing he did last week was to explain why he was speaking. Hereditary chiefs can only speak for themselves when they have good news. And Ahousaht has good news!

The Ahousaht confederacy recently announced their marine- and land-use vision for their traditional territories (ḥaḥuułʔi). The community consensus is to protect their lands and waters, including the globally rare ancient rainforests—the massive cedars and spruces—of which they are the custodians. Continue reading

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

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

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