Tag Archives: Mount Polley

First Nation Outraged By Permit Allowing Mount Polley Tailing Release

Contents from a tailings pond is pictured going down the Hazeltine Creek into Quesnel Lake near the town of Likely, B.C. on August, 5, 2014. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Contents from a tailings pond is pictured going down the Hazeltine Creek into Quesnel Lake near the town of Likely, B.C. on August, 5, 2014. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

CBC News

Mine responsible for 2014 environmental disaster granted permit to release effluent into Quesnel Lake

Members of a B.C. First Nation are speaking out against the province for allowing the Mount Polley mine to drain effluent from a tailings pit into Quesnel Lake.

Secwepemc Nation spokesperson Kanahus Manuel is outraged by the province’s decision, and worried for the people who use Quesnel Lake.

“This effluent and this treated water that Imperial Metals is discharging into Quesnel Lake is not meeting the drinking water guidelines,” she says. “It is going to be flowing right down into the Fraser River which 63 per cent of B.C. depends on for our watershed.”

The Environment Ministry approved a short-term permit Tuesday to allow the discharge from the mine tailings pit which is forecast to reach capacity in April, 2016.

Mount Polley was the site of an environmental disaster in August of 2014 when its original tailing pond burst spilling 24 million cubic metres of mine waste and water into nearby lakes and rivers.

The environment ministry says the current discharge will be treated and then allowed to flow into the lake at a depth of 30 to 40 meters below the surface.

“The province would not grant a water discharge permit from a mine site unless the province was absolutely certain that the water being discharged would meet the federal drinking water guidelines,” said B.C. Energy and Mines minister Bill Bennett.

When asked for clarification, the ministry said the treated water from the tailings pit is expected to meet drinking water standards ‘at the edge of a dilution zone’ in the lake, although the ministry did not say how large that dilution zone is.


Tahltan Approve Management And Revenue Deal For Red Chris Mine

‘My personal goal is that we have at least 50 per cent Tahltan employment (at Red Chris) within the next 10 years,’ says Chad Day, president of the Tahltan Central Council.

‘My personal goal is that we have at least 50 per cent Tahltan employment (at Red Chris) within the next 10 years,’ says Chad Day, president of the Tahltan Central Council.

By Gordon Hoekstra |Vancouver Sun, April 23, 2015

Agreement will provide jobs, cash and environmental oversight of gold-copper mine in northwest B.C.

The Tahltan Nation has approved an agreement with Imperial Metals under which it will share revenue from the $643-million Red Chris gold and copper mine and be involved in environmental oversight of the mine.

A co-management agreement, which the First Nation is calling “historic,” was supported by 87 per cent of those who voted in a referendum. Of the Tahltan’s 2,000 eligible voters, just under 500 voted.

Details of the agreement are being kept confidential, however it includes provisions for training and jobs. Environmental oversight provisions require that a majority of environmental monitors will be Tahltan, whose traditional territory is in northwestern B.C.

Already, 20 to 30 per cent of the workforce at the mine is First Nation members, said Chad Day, president of the Tahltan Central Council.

“My personal goal is that we have at least 50 per cent Tahltan employment within the next 10 years,” Day said in an interview.

Day called the agreement a big step for the Tahltan people.

“Tahltan people have been living on our lands for more than 10,000 years, so it makes sense for us to be involved in making sure our lands, waters and wildlife are protected for everyone without affecting our title and rights,” he said in a written statement.

The Red Chris mine, which recently went into production, has been in the spotlight because Imperial Metals also owns the Mount Polley gold and copper mine where there was a catastrophic failure of the tailings dam last summer. The failure of the earth-and-rock dam released millions of cubic metres of water and finely-ground rock containing potentially-toxic metals into the Quesnel Lake watershed in the Interior.

While there were already environmental provisions in a draft agreement for the Red Chris project before the Mount Polley incident, those were beefed up after the tailings dam failure, said Day. Those provisions include regular third-party reviews of the tailings facilities which will be reported both to the Tahltan and the company, said Day.

“We will make sure that Imperial Metals is going to follow through on the recommendations that come out of these third-party reviews and recommendations that come out of the committees we have in place,” he said.

Following the Mount Polley dam failure, the Tahltan successfully demanded a third-party review of the tailings facilities, paid for by Imperial Metals.

The review by Klohn Crippen Berger found the Red Chris tailings facility design was feasible if constructed properly.

However, the review found design deficiencies and called for increased monitoring to prove the design. The engineering firm made 22 recommendations, which Imperial Metals agreed they would follow.

The engineers noted that “any failure of the Red Chris impoundment will likely have a much more significant environmental impact than the Mount Polley failure.”

While the central council has been supportive of the mine project, which is about 80 km south of Dease Lake, the elders group the Klabona Keepers blockaded the Red Chris site for several weeks after the Mount Polley spill over fears of a similar incident.

Imperial Metals did not respond to a request for comment on the co-management agreement.


Protesters To Pay Legal Costs To Imperial Metals

Red Chris mine protesters.

Red Chris mine protesters.

By Michael Mui | 24 Hours Vancouver

The First Nations group that blockaded Imperial Metal’s Red Chris Mine after the company’s Mount Polley’s tailings dam breached last year has been ordered to pay the company’s legal costs.

Red Chris Development Company, a subsidiary of Imperial, successfully asked the B.C. Supreme Court for an injunction and enforcement order to remove the Klabona Keepers’ blockade in November last year.

The company is operating a copper and gold mine in northwest B.C.

Red Chris argued Klabona, specifically group spokeswoman Rhoda Quock, has “a history of disobeying court orders” — the judge agreed and said Klabona protesters “knew that their actions were illegal given their past experience with blockades and the resulting court orders.”

“It is also of note that in this proceeding the blockaders refused to obey the interim injunction order prior to the enforcement order coming into effect,” said Justice Robert Punnett in his ruling.

The First Nations group earlier said it was blockading the mine to prevent another repeat of the Mount Polley tailings dam collapse.

The costs awarded to Imperial is around $30,000, according to the court.


After Mount Polley: ‘This is Indigenous Law’

Imperial Metals-owned Mount Polley mine became site of most devastating tailings storage facility disaster in Canadian history.

Imperial Metals-owned Mount Polley mine became site of most devastating tailings storage facility disaster in Canadian history.


Six months after dam breach calamity, First Nation takes the lead on mining regulation.

New mining policy based on best practices is indigenous law, says the Northern Secwepemc the Qelmucw.

Thursday marked six months since the Imperial Metals-owned Mount Polley mine became the site of the most devastating tailings storage facility disaster in Canadian history, when nearly 25 million cubic metres of toxic mine effluent waste and chemicals spilled.

The spill damaged both Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake, which reside within the traditional territorial boundaries of the Secwepemc Nation.

An official report on why the spill happened from the Mount Polley mine itself was set for release at the end of January, but the B.C. government altered the regulations. Now a report from Mount Polley isn’t due until 2017.

Such moves from the provincial government have spurred the Secwepemc, and specifically the Xat’sūll (Soda Creek) First Nation, to takes steps to ensure nothing like Mount Polley happens again.

The Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw leadership council, which is composed of four northern Secwepemc bands, finalized a mining policy dated Nov. 19, 2014. Formation of the mining policy began in 2012, but the Mount Polley spill provided the council the motivation to finish it.

”One thing I want to make perfectly clear is this policy isn’t a wish-list,” said Jacinda Mack, leadership council co-ordinator. ”This is prescriptive. This is indigenous law. We did very thorough research and took more than two years to release the final document.”

The leadership council had mining experts and lawyers comb through the policy, which is now part of the partnership between mining proponents, the province, and the northern Shuswap. Mining proponents have a definite baseline framework to abide by on Secwepemc territory, Mack added.

”This goes above and beyond anything the B.C. government currently requires from a mining company,” Mack said. ”We have compiled the best mining practices in the world into one document.”

First Nation claims ‘inherent jurisdication’

The 54-page policy outlines exactly what the Secwepemc expect to happen within any current or future mine on its more than 53,000 square kilometres of traditional territory.

”The Secwepemc Nation has un-surrendered and un-extinguished title and rights throughout the Secwepemc traditional territory known as Secwepemculecw,” the policy reads. ”The Secwepemc Nation has the inherent jurisdiction to provide stewardship of Secwepemculecw and to ensure its sustainability and viability for future generations.”

B.C.’s Minister of Energy and Mines, Bill Bennett, declined to comment on the policy. A spokesperson told Ricochet by email that the ”government is reviewing the northern Shuswap’s mining policy document” and is ”committed to working with First Nations so they can benefit from economic activity in their traditional territories.

”The Province continues to encourage First Nations to be involved in all stages of mineral development, from exploration to operations and reclamation. Acting in partnership is the best way to provide a meaningful role in land and resource management for First Nations, and to provide for benefit-sharing and new economic opportunities. We will work constructively with the Xat’sūll First Nations to develop a shared vision for land and resource use.”

A partnership is exactly what the Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw leadership council is seeking in the release and implementation of the mining policy, and for that to truly take place, their involvement must become more than an afterthought, Mack said.

”We were never consulted when any mine on our territory was built,” she said. ”We took that into consideration as well as the calls from the public to ensure the devastation caused by the Mount Polley spill is cleaned and never repeated.”

Judith Sayers, a strategic advisor and adjunct professor of business at the University of Victoria, has reviewed the mining policy and stresses the importance of it and similar documents from First Nations across Canada.

”As far as governance goes, it’s good for any First Nation to create policy about mining, forestry, tourism or any use of land is necessary to move toward self-sufficiency,” said Sayers, who is from the Hupacasath Nation. ”If you want to do business with us, this is how we want it done. And you decide if you want to do that or negotiate ways you want it done differently. Of course some companies may be shown the door, but that’s business.”

‘Precedent setting’ for other First Nations

Part of the mining policy requires proponents to pay for the leadership council to conduct its own environmental review of any incident or proposal, with the council having the authority to accept or deny applications independent of non-First Nations authorities.

”Proponents have to know who they are attempting to enter into agreements with and policies like this, I think, can only be helpful in setting the table for negotiations,” Sayers said. ”If all parties were at the table for Prosperity mines [projects proposed on Tsilhqot’in land], it may not have had to go to court three times.”

”We understand this is potentially precedent setting,” Mack said. ”We’ve had other First Nations calling and asking if they can use our policy. The answer to that is yes. Change the name wherever (North Secwepemc te Qelmucw) appears. The more we put pressure on mining companies and the province the better for everyone.”

The Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw leadership council have a representative who worked with a panel to uncover why the Mount Polley disaster happened.

A glacial deposit, which was not found in testing prior to construction of the tailings enclosure, collapsed 30 to 35 metres below the corner of the tailings storage facility. Plus the slope of the dam and base of the tailings storage facility contributed to engineering failures, according to the report.

Imperial Metals is pushing to reopen Mount Polley, but the leadership council says there is still much to do before that can be considered viable.

In an on-air interview on Jan. 30, following the release of the Mount Polley report, Minister Bennett failed to mention the Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw report or the fact that the new mining policy is in effect after being adopted by the leadership council. He did say the province is working with industry representatives to resume production at Mount Polley.

”There remains much work ahead before we are even close to that discussion,” Mack said. ”We are looking at several years of response and engagement in regards to direct impacts of this disaster. We are in no rush to push ahead and reopen.

”We are in the process of implementing our (council’s) mining policy, and anticipate phasing in aspects of the policy in the next several months. I do not have details yet of what that would include, but it is our expectation that once we start implementing policy, we will follow up with the companies and government about compliance/non-compliance and next steps with regard to our title and rights.”

Sayers cautioned every First Nation to remember the reason and impact of any industrial business contract.

”These agreements belong to the people, meaning today’s generation and future generations, because they have to ensure anything that happens on the land allows traditional use to continue and even improve,” she said. ”Essentially it’s the collective rights of a given community that will be affected by a mine.”

Sayers added that, to increase economic certainty in current and future development in the province, lands should be transferred back to their respective people.

”People have to learn how to do business the right way. And on First Nations territory, the right way is increasingly being initiated by aboriginal people based on right and title.”  [Tyee]


Mount Polley Mine Offices Raided as Investigation Continues

Imperial Metals offices and mine site were raided Tuesday to obtain evidence in the provincial and federal investigation into the Mount Polley mine tailings dam failure.

Imperial Metals offices and mine site were raided Tuesday to obtain evidence in the provincial and federal investigation into the Mount Polley mine tailings dam failure.

by Gordon Hoekstra and Matthew Robinson, Vancouver Sun

Imperial Metals offices and mine site were raided Tuesday to obtain evidence in the provincial and federal investigation into the Mount Polley mine tailings dam failure.

The search warrant was executed as part of a joint investigation by Environment Canada, its enforcement branch, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the RCMP, said B.C. Conservation Office inspector Chris Doyle.

While Doyle said he could not say on whom or where the warrant was executed, Imperial Metals confirmed late Tuesday a search warrant was executed on its offices in downtown Vancouver and at the Mount Polley mine site near Likely in the B.C. Interior, 100 kilometres northeast of Williams Lake.

In downtown Vancouver Tuesday evening, uniformed conservation officers — some who wore what appeared to be bulletproof vests — could be spotted looking through Imperial Metals’ offices and documents on the second floor of 580 Hornby St.

Dave Hill, a security guard at the building, said officers had locked down the floor. He said they went up carrying bags and it “looked like they’ll be there a while.”

Doyle said he could not say what information they had used to obtain the search warrant or elaborate on why action was being taken now. The dam failure occurred on Aug. 4.

Doyle said they were gathering evidence to be presented to provincial and federal Crown prosecutors.

The investigation could lead to charges and fines.

“The investigation primarily focuses on offences with respect to the environmental management act (B.C. legislation) and the federal Fisheries Act, but is not limited to those acts,” Doyle said in an interview.

He said the investigation team uses “myriad” techniques to gather evidence, including interviewing witnesses and gathering technical evidence. “Because it’s still an ongoing investigation we don’t want to release any particulars that might jeopardize the investigation,” said Doyle.

In a written statement, Imperial Metals said the search warrants related to an investigation into possible breaches of the Fisheries Act.

“The company understands warrants to be a normal means of investigation, and cooperated fully with the regulatory authorities,” said the short statement.

John Horgan, the leader of the B.C. NDP, asked how the Liberal government had not already gathered “every possible relevant document from the company.”

“We don’t yet have details about the basis for warrants, but I’m very concerned it is only happening now — six months after the disaster. Would not both the engineers’ report and the offence investigation benefited from having Imperial Metals’ documents earlier?”

The execution of the search warrants comes on the heels of the release last week of the findings of an expert engineering panel into the cause of the tailings dam failure.

The three-member panel, chaired by University of Alberta professor emeritus Norbert Morgenstern, concluded the root cause of the failure was a design problem that failed to account for a weak glacial soil layer beneath the foundation of the dam. The panel also had other concerns, including that the dam slopes were steeper than original designed and a failure to create proper beaches from finely ground rock (called tailings) meant to provide a safety buffer between water and the dam.

Knight Piesold designed the dam in the late 1990s and was engineer of record until 2011, when AMEC took over engineering oversight of the dam.

The dam failure released millions of cubic metres of water and tailings containing potentially toxic metals into the Quesnel Lake watershed.

The wave of water scoured and widened nine-kilometre long Hazeltine Creek, carrying away trees, foliage and dirt along with the tailings.

The creek was home to spawning trout and Coho salmon.

The tailings also surged into Quesnel Lake, the migration path of more than one million sockeye salmon. A plume of sediment estimated at “many” tens of square kilometres by University of B.C. scientists has been turning the lake and Quesnel River a cloudy green colour and elevating levels of metals at times above aquatic health guidelines. It has sparked concerns from residents and First Nations on the long-term environmental impacts of the dam failure and tailings spill.

The office of the chief inspector of mines also has an investigation underway into the dam failure, expected to be complete by June.