This week marks the one-year anniversary of the Mount Polley mine spill, the largest mining disaster in Canadian history. On August 4, 2014 an estimated 24 million cubic metres of mining waste spilled from a failed tailings impoundment, flowing down the Hazeltine Creek into Quesnel Lake, a local source of drinking water and home to an estimated quarter of the province’s sockeye salmon.
DeSmog Canada spoke with local resident and fisheries biologist Richard Holmes to discuss the anniversary of the accident. Holmes said some members of his community are disappointed the mine hasn’t done more to repair the social and economic damage done to residents in the wake of the spill.
Although the Mount Polley mine, owned by Imperial Metals, has put an estimated $67 million into stabilizing the Hazeltine Creek, Holmes said the area resembles a “pretty ditch” that won’t be suitable fish habitat for at least two more years.
“It’s disappointing,” Holmes said.
“The last public meeting was about a month ago and I was really disappointed to watch the mine and their consultants and the government people act like they’d just won the lottery. There were as happy as pigs in shit.”
Holmes said the company was eager to have the mine up and running again — something the province gave them approval to do last month. The mine partially reopened in July to the frustration of locals who feel not enough has been done to make reparations for the spill.
“I felt somewhat insulted actually,” Holmes said. “Here our community had just gone through this year of frustration with both parties and their main focus was the environment, which is good, there’s no doubt about that, but their second focus, an equally important focus was on the economics of it.”
“But they've forgotten completely about the social impacts and the cultural and economic impacts on the people in the community.”
Image Credit: Water destined for Quesnel Lake gathers in a sediment pond, March 2015. Photo: Farhan Umedaly