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.
MiningWatch alleges that Imperial broke two sections of the Fisheries Act by “depositing deleterious substances into fish habitat” and “causing serious harm to fish” including permanent destruction of fish habitat.
2 years later still no penalties
More than two years after the dam failure, no charges, no sanctions, and no penalties have been brought forward against Mount Polley Mine Corporation (MPMC).
Despite 2 reports severely critiquing MPMC for its poor practices, standards, and lack of due diligence, the BC Chief Inspector of Mines and the BC government decided not to lay charges against MPMC last December.
Ugo Lapointe from MiningWatch Canada stated “This sends the wrong signal to the industry across the country and undermines public confidence in the capacity of our regulatory system to work effectively to protect our environment.”
While MiningWatch has a legal team committed to carrying the case to full trial, it also recognizes that the cost associated with prosecuting a case against a large mining corporation and the Provincial Government can be immense. For this reason, they will be asking the Federal Crown to carry the prosecution forward, and to use all of the means and resources at its disposal to do so.
What is the point of laws if industry not held accountable?
Bev Sellars, the Chair of FNWARM summed the situation up eloquently: “The disaster that was the Mount Polley tailings pond collapse is not over for those of us who live and depend on the lands and waters, and particularly on the salmon that have always sustained us. Nor is it over for those living in the shadows of other existing and planned mines across BC, who are acutely aware of the government’s own panel of experts who reported we can expect to see two more such failures every decade. What is the point of having laws if governments and industry are not held accountable when they are violated?
Imperial Metal is considering two mines near Tofino. Some places in BC, like the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, are too precious to mine. If mining in other regions is to continue, we must heed the words of the BC government’s own Mount Polley Review Panel which firmly rejected “any notion that business as usual can continue.”.
Clayoquot Action will continue working with other organisations such as MiningWatch Canada to pressure the BC government to take all necessary actions to prevent future mine waste disasters and hold mining companies accountable for their failures or wrongdoings.
Dan Lewis is Executive Director of Clayoquot Action.