Friday, January 12, 2018

Time running out to lay environmental charges in Mount Polley mine dam failure

The clock is ticking down on the window to lay environmental charges in Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley mine dam failure, which took place 3½ years ago in the B.C. Interior. It was one of the largest mining-dam failures in the world in the past 50 years, and shook the industry, first nations, environmental groups and the public. The three-year deadline to lay charges under B.C.’s environmental laws came and went.
Under federal law, there is a five-year window to lay environmental charges, leaving 20 months to do so.
The failure of the earth-and-rock dam spilled an estimated 25 billion litres (24 million cubic metres) of mine effluent and tailings into Polley Lake, its outflow Hazeltine Creek, and continued into nearby Quesnel Lake and Cariboo River. The spill scoured nine-kilometres of Hazeltine Creek where trout and coho salmon spawned. According to Mount Polley mine records filed with Environment Canada in 2013, there were 326 tonnes of nickel, over 400 tonnes of arsenic, 177 tonnes of lead and 18,400 tonnes of copper and its compounds placed in the tailings pond in 2012 alone. Water tests showed elevated levels of selenium, arsenic and other metals.
Imperial Metals had a history of operating the pond beyond capacity with impunity since at least 2011.

The controlling shareholder of Imperial Metals is billionaire N. Murray Edwards. He donated half a million dollars in campaign contributions to the B.C. Liberal party since 2005 and helped organize a $1-million fundraiser for B.C. Premier Christy Clark’s re-election. Imperial Metals got in on the action as well, topping up donations to the Liberals by $46,720.

Christy Clark resigned as Liberal leader effective August 4, 2017, saying she was leaving politics.