The Environmental Appeal Board found the mining company responsible for the worst mining disaster in Canadian history has failed to investigate and test long-term water treatment systems at the Mount Polley mine site, which currently relies on discharging waste into Quesnel Lake, one of the world’s deepest glacial lakes and a source of drinking water
Hazeltine Creek, once a stream running through dense forest, is now an exposed, barren wasteland due to the flood of tailings waste that swept down it from the Mount Polley mine. Photo: Louis Bockner / The Narwhal
The company responsible for Canada’s largest tailings spill failed to meet new provincial conditions for a wastewater permit in the wake of a 2014 mining disaster, B.C.’s Environmental Appeal Board has ruled.
The ruling shoots down an appeal by Mount Polley Mining Corp., a subsidiary of Imperial Metals. The B.C. Environment Ministry previously issued the $9,000 administrative penalty last December after concluding the company had failed to investigate and test long-term water treatment systems — a condition of the permit, which was amended as a result of a major tailings dam collapse.
The 2014 Mount Polley disaster sent 24-million cubic metres of water and tailings effluent into surrounding lakes and streams, including Quesnel Lake.
After the disaster, the company was given permission, on a temporary basis, to discharge wastewater into Quesnel Lake. The permit, which expires on Dec. 31, 2022, was amended in 2017 to include requirements for designing and testing “mine influenced water,” but Mount Polley missed several deadlines and was sent numerous letters warning it was out of compliance, according to the new ruling by the appeal board.
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