Government allowed massive production, toxin increase at Mount Polley Mine before tailings pond disaster

Government allowed massive production, toxin increase at Mount Polley Mine before tailings pond disaster

Mount Polley Mine saw massive increase in toxins leading up to tailings pond breach
Aerial image of tailings pond breach (Cariboo Regional District)

Mount Polley’s tailing pond breach is the worst environmental disaster in BC History. It will be a BC Day that goes down in infamy and, from the environmental perspective, may be one of the world’s worst mining disasters when all is said and done.

At 10 million cubic metres of water and 4.5 million of slurry, it appears this tailings pond release is one of the largest of its kind in history, anywhere in the world.

Disaster follows massive increase in toxic tailings

Mount Polley owner Imperial Metals, in its most recent report, claimed as much as a seven fold increase, year-over-year, in toxic compounds like arsenic stored in the pond. The full list reads like a who’s who in the world of toxic health concerns, yet the CEO claims he would drink the tailing water, as long as the solids were removed.

This most recent, massive increase in toxic tailings being stored in the now-breached and near-emptied “pond” corresponds with a massive increase in production that has occurred over the last year. The Vancouver Sun reports:

[quote]Imperial has increased production at Mount Polley. The company reported in its second-quarter financial report that throughput at the mine’s processing mill was up 23 per cent to 23,404 tonnes of rock per day and meal production totalled 12 million pounds of copper, up 46 per cent, 11,867 ounces of gold, up 24 per cent and 33,813 ounces of silver, up 35 per cent from the same quarter a year ago.[/quote]

Province allowed production increase, against expert’s warning

All of this was allowed by the province to occur after Brian Olding, an independent consultant, had clearly outlined serious concerns and even offered a remedy by urging the company to apply for permits for up to 3 million cubic feet a year of effluent to be discharged into the wild.

Dead fish found downstream from Mount Polley tailings pond breach (Chris Lyne)
Dead fish downstream from tailings pond breach (Chris Lyne)

A permit for effluent release of 1.4 million cubic ft already existed (permit#11678) but treatment of the effluent before discharge became a stumbling point resulting in delays of safely discharging the excess effluent with the blessing of the local First Nations.

The company then moved for an amendment to increase the volume to 3 million cubic ft., no doubt as a result of ramping up production. Chronological details can be found here. 

This measure of discharging effluent is not ideal but the company was pushing all boundaries and even dealing with overflow, spilling untreated effluent into the environment.

Government deregulation enabled disaster

Something clearly needed to be done as the tailings pond was reaching critical mass, however government allowed for the increased production and only issued warnings to the company – albeit five of them – the most recent just this May.

Kynoch, Bennett
Imperial Metals CEO Brian Kynoch (foreground), with BC Mines Minister Bill Bennett (green shirt) looking on at Aug 5 public meeting in Likely, BC (Chris Lyne)

People on the ground and former employees know they are now living in a disaster zone that many saw coming.

They know they cannot drink the water as the CEO suggests and they know that it is all a result of our current Government’s affinity for simply getting out of the way of industry and their desire to massively exploit our resources.

Everyone also knows, that in the end, the watershed that sustains all living things in the region is in serious jeopardy and the same people immersed in this disaster will see their taxes pay for the clean up for years to come.

All of which makes for the saddest BC day ever.



About Kevin Logan

Kevin Logan's career has been diverse, ranging from small business to NGOs through finance and government. Early on, he operated the research department for the Vancouver branch of international brokerage Richardson Greenshields. After leaving the finance industry he owned operated small businesses and eventually established a consulting company which contracts with both the private and public sectors. He served as a ministerial assistant to numerous ministers and a premier in the former BC NDP Administration. Kevin is also an independent researcher and writer who has administered many diverse and successful campaigns.

38 thoughts on “Government allowed massive production, toxin increase at Mount Polley Mine before tailings pond disaster

  1. all peoples are equal, consent is sacrosanct, for the acquistion of the transfer of title by the foreign people is to be done by a intl. treaty( vienna convention on the law o0f treaties) there is no treaty that makes the original inhabitants of turtle island canadian, or their territories part of the corporation can. that is a fact, can. has no jurisdiction on turtle island.

  2. Doing something about the government means relentless naming and shaming at every public gathering in BC. It would need to be on the scale of the HST referendum or even greater, plus non stop until the next election.
    There seems little to expect from the MSM as they collectively choose to remain willfully ignorant. Don’t blame other political groups for inaction, they are just not being given coverage by the MSM.
    To secure a government by and for the people will only happen when the general population forces issue. It will never happen in the currant legislature as the culture of going along to get a long trumps everything else.

  3. You all want the benefits of a an industry. You green complainers, look into your garage and count how many cars your family members are driving? You are all full of s………..
    What are you putting into your cars? Olive Oil?

    1. Yes I want the benefits, but I want them responsible. I am tired of governments in bed with business letting them self regulate while we as a whole pay for the mess that often results from this. Who’s going to pay for this cleanup? People like you need to have a hard look at your actions which is basically saying it’s full steam ahead and be damned with the consequences. Do you have any morals at all?

  4. What ever happened to the balance we once had and have lost with government between businesses and people. Yes we need jobs mind you we send most resourses out in raw form and bring in thousands of temp workers for 11 years and yes we need to take care of the older baby boomer generation(that’s already spent our future and our kids futures) We’ve lost our true freedom here and now losing our most cherished thing our scenic forests and lakes and rivers. Remember 2000 when everyone thought the world was becoming a better place and had high hopes which now has come crumbling down yes blame the conservatives (remember Brian and now Harper ) but all party’s are also to blame on province scale and liberals and conservatives on the federal scale. Our democracy ain’t working and the party system is a sham. Money is and has been the root of all the past thousands of years of wars and environment destruction. Our system needs to change and be more responsive to people. Greed and corruption runs strong in our policing our courts and our government. Where has my canada gone were going backwards not forward

  5. You people need to get a grip on reality!! You all use the products of mining, forestry and other natural resources and when something like this happens we start spouting off BS rhetoric and poor me . What good is it going to do to change government?? That’s been tried in the past to no avail.
    And First Nations show up with their drums and bead blankets till business interest throw them more money then it is ok!!
    Give me a break and wait and see what happens through testing and possible remediation .

    1. You’re obviously no Canadian.

      You obviously don’t care about being able to drive to some lake or river, somewhere, and be confident that you can swim in it.

      You obviously don’t care about the wildlife. Caribou, California bighorn
      sheep, mule deer and moose. The many water bodies are home to
      abundant numbers and variety of waterfowl, from loons
      and grebes to dabbling ducks and shorebirds. There are a variety of migratory birds who depend on ponds, lakes and wetlands, which will be destroyed when they return. Bats, butterflies, reptiles and amphibians. But I guess none of that matters in the face of PROFITS. Consider this – there are a number of ranchers who use that land and someone will have to pay for their damaged land and any costs associated to the health of their cattle!

      I expect the Canadian people will soon step up because the government is falling short. The Liberals are in bed with business, and the citizens deserve a full public inquiry. Seek the truth.

  6. Native people have been warning of all the development since first contact and after every disaster we have always said we told you so. This company has been warned of dangerous levels in that tailings pond for quite sone tine and did nothing. Som or someone has to be held accountable. I believe that mine should be shut down for good. If people lose jobs then that is their own employers fault fortnot heeding the advice of so many warnings. Now the peoplethat live up there are probaly mad and confused as to what to do now. We as a society do not need to consume so much. Do we really need to consume for all the hallmark holidays?

  7. Another case of the tail wagging the dog!
    When did it become the governments job to offer up our environment use for production of income creating industry
    It seems like we should have a committee made up of Canadians and First Nations to control industry’s use of our environment and resources
    As a Canadian I feel as if I have no control over what happens in my country
    I may as well be in a communist country

  8. Well it shows that this ‘government’ cannot be trusted to protect the environment so projects like Northgate and site C dam should be cancelled.

  9. what am I missing here?
    Bill Bennett seems to be getting all the shit but isn’t Mary Polak the Minister of environment?
    I must confess it’s a long time since I thought about the specific duties of the Minister of environment but surely the rules involved in the Imperial mining case come under that ministry.
    If that’s the case, Mary Polak should have resigned days ago.

    1. Rafe, Bill Bennet was all over CBC yesterday saying that it is the responsibility of his ministry to insure that these mine comply with government and industry regulation. I agree the environment ministry also should play an equal role to these concerns.
      Mary Polak should resign also,agreed!

  10. We can bio remediate with oyster mushroom spawn. They clean water. I have been using oyster mushrooms in our local creek in Shawnigan Lake because of the sia toxic soil above our watershed. I have access to bulk spawn and would like to bring it to the disaster area. I have also been building bullrush gardens on Shawnigan Lake out of old fence wire and local bullrushes. Start bioremediation now.

    Google Paul Stamets oyster mushrooms

  11. I agree Don.f !!! This whole gov has to go! , they better clean this mess up properly first on their tab , not yours and mine . what other mines have been doing the same thing since the regs got lightened?? What about the highland valley tailings ,it probably bigger , above the thompson river ?

  12. This is a disaster. The government must be accountable. Its all about money. We can’t eat or drink money when nothing is left. We must all protect Mother earth.

  13. I am sitting here in total sadness and disbelief at the disregard for not only the people but for all life shown by this government and how callous they and their corporate bedfellows really are.
    The devastation this will bring to wildlife, salmon and the ecosystems they support will never again be the same if they survive at all.
    I want this government gone ASAP. To simply let this pass and to let them lie to our faces and remain is unacceptable!
    We have the ability to change this by removing these people from power even if it’s one by one we must start now.
    I am asking that Bill Bennett resign for the good of British Columbians, if he won’t then he must understand that I will undertake actions through whatever means possible to see he does. I don’t think it will be a hardship for me to find the support to see it through.

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