EnvironmentalismWild MindWildlife

Mount Polley mine tailings breach: Another environmental disaster in BC

By August 8, 2014 One Comment

“Water ban put in place as a tailing pond gives way and tens of millions of gallons of waste course through area rivers and lakes”

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I was devastated when I heard the news about the tailing pond breach in Mount Polley. Another environmental disaster to rock BC. I’m still trying to process the extremeness of this industrial spill on the wild lands of my home province.

A mix of anger, rage, sadness and disbelief cloud my thoughts. How could THEY do this to our sacred water? What were they thinking?

I feel helpless and full of blame. I had no idea that mining used water in this way. I feel ignorant and disappointed that I didn’t know these things.

I am at a loss for words about how irresponsible this company has been. But did they really think that they could hold back water filled with toxic sludge by some earth? Do we humans think we can control the power of water?

This is another example of how humans really don’t know what they’re doing. Yes, I’m sure there were a lot of “safety” measures in place, created by logical educated scientific-minded engineers. I’m sure they thought it all through. Yet, once again, they failed. 

How many countless animals; birds, fish, bears, frogs, and humans will this impact. How many people will develop diseases?

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How many times do “we” humans need to see environmental devastation before we get it? The nuclear disaster in Japan, the countless oil spills in the U.S.A., tanker spills in rivers, the BP oil spill…

When will we wake up and stop treating the natural world as a bad science experiment for profit. It’s our life, our home and our future. The environmentalists are trying to tell us something. When will we stop writing them off and realize they have everyone’s best interest in mind… well except for the bank accounts of these company’s CEOs of course…

Like you, I’m feeling a wave of emotions I can’t quite grasp. How do I find peace in this? Do I act on my anger? What can I do?

If you want more information about what’s happening in Mount Polley, I really liked this article from the Common Dreams website and thought you might too. I’m going to go spend some time outside and breath through my anger.

If you want to start doing something now, sign this petition with me on the David Suzuki Foundation website.

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‘Massive Environmental Disaster’ in Canada as Toxic Tailing Pond Floods Waterways

Original article by Deirdre Fulton of CommonDreams.org

(Image: Screenshot from Cariboo Regional District video)

A middle-of-the-night breach of the tailings pond for an open-pit copper and gold mine in British Columbia sent a massive volume of toxic waste into several nearby waterways on Monday, leading authorities to issue a water-use ban.

Slurry from Mount Polley Mine near Likely, B.C. breached the earthen dam around 3:45 am on Monday, with hundreds of millions of gallons — equivalent to 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, according to Canada’s Global News — gushing into Quesnel Lake, Cariboo Creek, Hazeltine Creek and Polley Lake. An estimated 300 homes, plus visitors and campers, are affected by the ban on drinking and bathing in the area’s water.

Chief Anne Louie of the Williams Lake Indian band told the National Post the breach was a “massive environmental disaster.”

With salmon runs currently making their way to their spawning grounds, “Our people are at the river side wondering if their vital food source is safe to eat,” said Garry John, aboriginal activist and member of the board of directors of the Council of Canadians, in a press release.

The Canadian media company QMI Agency reports:

Federal data on the project show the company significantly increased its on-site storage of toxins such as arsenic, mercury and lead in the past two years.

Environment Canada’s data on Imperial Metal’s mine tailings show mercury compounds, a neurotoxin that can cause degenerative disease, ramped up from 435 kilograms in 2012 to 3,114 kg last year — a seven-fold increase.

Likewise, levels of the deadly poison arsenic more than quadrupled to 406,122 kg last year.

Local experts say they raised concerns about such a breach years ago. “We held discussions with the mine staff related to the potential of this situation occurring,”  Chief Louie told thePost. “We have a report that we worked on a couple of years ago,” she added, referring to an independent review by an environmental consulting firm completed in 2011. The report suggested additional monitoring and emergency contingency plans were in order.

Imperial Metals, which also operates a gold mine in Nevada, said Tuesday morning that the dam had been stabilized. In a statement, the company said: “Exact quantities of water and tailings discharged have yet to be determined. The tailings are alkaline with an average ph of 8.5 and are not acid generating.”

But Ramsey Hart, the Canada programs director for MiningWatch Canada, noted that toxic heavy metals, which settle at the bottom of rivers and lakes, are difficult to clean up. “You can’t release that amount of toxic metals into ecosystems without having long-term repercussions,” Hart told QMI Agency. “If they’re able to clean some of it up that would be helpful, but they’ll never be able to clean it all up — those metals don’t go anywhere.”

The breach is further evidence that such mining projects should be vigorously opposed, said Leila Darwish, the Council of Canadians’ Pacific Regional Organizer:

These companies are gambling with our drinking water, our health and the environment. While mining companies like Imperial Metals make massive profits for 25-30 years, these projects are putting entire water systems and communities at risk. Are these massive mines really worth the risk?

The following video, from the Cariboo Regional District, shows the extent of the damage:

Author Alissa Wild

Alissa is a wild woman introvert who loves wandering through the forest trails of her local woodlands seeking birdsong and keepsakes. She founded We Are Wildness in an effort to help people by inspiring them to get outside and reconnect with the wild world. She's a backyard naturalist, eco-feminist, and feels an ardent connection to those feathered, finned, and furred. She relishes regular time in solitude to nourish spirit and feels most at home in the rivers and forests of Coast Salish territories on Vancouver Island.

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  • GK Okuma

    We cannot admonish ourselves for that which we were unaware. The real point is now we know, and now we have options for spreading the word in hopes others will make more informed choices. When I am faced with something overwhelming, something hugely upsetting, I try to remind myself of what I can control. I cannot control the actions of others, however, I can choose avenues to speak up and look at my own behaviors for beneficial modification. I can learn to not take for granted the clean water flowing long and free from my faucet and use only what I truly need, wasting as little as possible.Thank you for sharing the link to the petition to your audience. May we all speak up for the planet and give this Earth a voice.