Mount Polley Mine Reopens Despite Ongoing Investigations

(Ottawa) MiningWatch Canada is concerned that the BC government’s decision to reopen the Mount Polley mine is premature as long as the operator, Imperial Metals, is still under two investigations for its failure to prevent the biggest catastrophic mining spill in Canadian history on August 4 of last year.

“Actions do not seem to follow words. Minister Bennett and his government said that they would follow all seven recommendations from the independent expert panel report released in January 2015, including putting environmental safety ahead of pure economic interests,” says Ugo Lapointe, Canada Program Coordinator for MiningWatch Canada.

Lapointe fears the BC government is putting the cart way before the horse: “The ongoing investigations could lead to serious civil and criminal charges against Imperial Metals or its contractors, which in turn could lead to severe or very costly sanctions or litigations. This critical information should be made publicly available before even thinking of reopening the mine.”

Nearly a year after the disaster, the mining watchdog is also concerned that most of the environmental and socioeconomic costs are assumed by British Columbians and local First Nations, and not by Imperial Metals. “We are very concerned of the lack of detailed assessments of the costs and damages caused so far by this massive failure onto the local environment, communities, and businesses, as well as onto First Nations’ rights and livelihoods in the area. Who will ultimately compensate and pay the bill for all of those damages? The persistent blanket of silence on this issue is very worrisome,” says Lapointe.

Yesterday’s announcement was also a surprise because there is still no long term plan regarding site clean-up costs, water treatment, and mining wastes management. “Again, we seem to be repeating the same mistakes as before by prioritizing the company's economic interests over safety and the environment,” adds Lapointe. "This is really about getting Imperial Metals back to profitability."

The catastrophic failure of the tailings dam at the Mount Polley mine sent over 24 billion litres of solid and liquid mining wastes into the surrounding, salmon-bearing waters. The long term and full extent of impacts caused by the spill are not well understood yet.

MiningWatch Canada has welcomed the BC government's recent initiative to review the provincial mining code, but warned that the review needs to be broad enough to address the full range of necessary changes following the Mount Polley Independent Expert Panel Report, the First Nations Energy and Mining Council Report, and the recent Auditor General Report on cumulative effects of resource development in the province.

For more information, contact Ugo Lapointe, (514) 708-0134