Petition Appeals to Trudeau to Ensure Imperial Metals Faces the Music for Mount Polley Disaster

(Ottawa) While MiningWatch continues to battle in court, online advocacy group SumOfUs has launched a petition campaign urging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Justice Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould, and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Hon. Dominic Leblanc, to enforce the Fisheries Act and hold Imperial Metals to account for the Mt. Polley Mining Disaster.

“We need to alert Canadians about what’s going on. Make no mistake, this was a bad spill. Tons of toxic substances were dumped into waterways. Fish habitats were destroyed. People’s drinking water was affected. Yet, nearly three years after the disaster, and despite clear evidence of violations of Canadian laws, no charges have been brought forward by any level of government. This is wrong, simply wrong. It sets a terrible precedent for other mines across the country, let alone internationally,” states Ugo Lapointe, Canada Program Coordinator for MiningWatch.

Adds Lapointe, “Worse, Imperial Metals has faced no fines and didn’t even have to pay the full cost of cleanup—Canadians picked up a huge chunk of the tab. We can't let this happen. We need to tell the Trudeau government to hold corporations accountable when they fail our laws. Otherwise, what’s the point of having laws?”

Almost three years ago, Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley Mine spilled 25 million cubic metres (10,000 Olympic-size pools) of mine waste containing tons of toxic substances into Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek, and Quesnel Lake in central British-Colombia. Quesnel Lake is one of deepest lakes in the world, home to multiple fish species, and a source of drinking water to local communities.

The National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI) reports that the Mount Polley Mine was the largest emitter of copper, arsenic, and manganese in Canadian waters in 2014 due to the dam breach and tailings spill. The spill destroyed or affected at least 2,612,470 m2 of aquatic and riparian habitats—equivalent to about 500 football fields or 1500 ice hockey rinks. Long term impacts are still unknown.

Last October 2016, MiningWatch Canada, with the support of multiple organizations, filed a private prosecution against the B.C. government and the Mount Polley Mining Corporation (MPMC) for violations of the Fisheries Act. In January of this year, the Crown prosecutor (the Public Prosecution Service of Canada or PPSC) pulled a stunner when it announced, at the last minute, its intention to 'stay' MiningWatch’s charges against the B.C. government and the corporation. The PPSC operates under the authority of the Attorney General of Canada, that is, Minister of Justice Hon. Jody Wilson-Raybould.

MiningWatch will be back in court later in March to argue that it should have a right to at least present the evidence to the court before the PPSC decides what to do with the charges. Says Lapointe, “We are concerned with the overall approach of the Public Prosecutor Service of Canada in this case. Nearly three years after the fact, what confidence can the public have that the PPSC will lay its own charges? The PPSC has not communicated any intention of doing so any time soon. In fact, its attitude suggests quite the opposite.”

MiningWatch's legal action is supported by various local, provincial, and national organizations, including West Coast Environmental Law-Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund, Amnesty International Canada, Sierra Club BC, Wilderness Committee, First Nations Women Advocating for Responsible Mining, Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake, Quesnel River Watershed Alliance, Fair Mining Collaborative, Rivers Without Borders, British Columbia Environmental Network, Clayoquot Action, Forest Protection Allies, Kamloops Area Preservation Association, Kamloops Physicians for the Environment Society, and Alaska Clean Water Advocacy.

For information:

Ugo Lapointe, Canada Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada, cell (514) 708-0134