‘A crime scene’: Mount Polley one year after mining disaster

Last month B.C. quietly allowed Imperial Metals to resume operations. We share exclusive footage of the mess left behind by the Aug. 4, 2014 spill
Photo: Jeremy Board

Ricochet has provided extensive coverage of the aftermath of last summer’s environmental disaster at Mount Polley, B.C. Today we have a new report from on the ground, looking at the toxic scene left behind by the massive tailings breach that occurred exactly one year ago.

Despite two ongoing investigations, an incomplete clean up, and lingering concerns about architectural flaws, the Imperial Metals Mount Polley mine, site of one of the worst environmental disasters in Canadian history, has reopened.

Last month the B.C. government approved a limited permit to reopen the mine not even a year after its tailings facility failed, releasing 10 billion litres of contaminated water and 4.5 million cubic metres of toxic waste into the surrounding environment.

The province, for their part, knew of potential safety risks but was not obliged to inform the public, according to a report published by the B.C Information Privacy Commissioner.

Two events, a tension crack and an overfilling incident were documented in 2010 but apparently did not pose a “significant risk to the environment, health or public safety,” according to Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

As a result over 50 environmental and citizens organizations have called on the province to pay more attention to the nearly 100 tailings ponds in B.C.

In the days and weeks following the disaster on Aug. 4, 2014, a camp and a sacred fire were set up outside the entrance of the mine by a group led by members of the Secwepemc First Nation, the traditional caretakers of the land.

Given the traditional name for the area, Yuct Ne Senxiymeikwe, the camp gathered information from locals and monitored the mines activity.

On the one-year anniversary today, the camp plans to reconvene for a memorial gathering and ceremony.

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