Work conducted on Mount Polley Mine’s tailings storage facility that breached in August of 2014 has allowed for the reopening of the facility for use.

Work conducted on Mount Polley Mine’s tailings storage facility that breached in August of 2014 has allowed for the reopening of the facility for use.

A look at Mount Polley Mine breach, two years later

Two years after the Mount Polley Mine breach, Williams Lake Indian Band Chief Ann Louie said the disaster was a wake-up call.

Two years after the Mount Polley Mine breach, Williams Lake Indian Band Chief Ann Louie said the disaster was a wake-up call.

“It was a sad situation that caused a lot of damage to the area, but it woke the government up to realize there needs to be tougher legislation around all mining activity, not just Mount Polley,” Louie said.

In the early hours of B.C. Day holiday Monday, Aug. 4, 2014, the northern flank of the mine’s tailings impoundment failed.

During the subsequent hours about 17 million cubic metres of water and  eight million cubic metres of tailings and mine waste spilled into nearby Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake.

Two years later the mine is running full time, the repaired tailings impoundment is in use and 333 people are back at work at the mine.

At the end of June 2016, the Mount Polley Mine Corp. submitted a draft technical report in advance of submitting a long-term water management plan and later this summer or fall it is anticipated the plan will be available for public comment.

Chief Louie said she and Xat’sull Chief Donna Dixon sit at the table with the provincial government and have been pushing for the mine code review that was tabled earlier in July by the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

“We have our technical team that works with the mine and government,” Louie said.

“When they apply for permits we are always in the background pushing to get the best out of them before a permit is issued.”

After the breach, Louie and former Xat’sull Chief Bev Sellars signed a letter of understanding with the government that has given them a foot in the door.

The technical team has also been insisting on the best outcome for the long-term water management plan.

“It was something we pushed for even before the breach,” Louie said.

“We still will expect the mine to do the best that it can. They have to be accountable for their actions.”

Doug Watt is a director on the Likely Chamber of Commerce.

He and his wife live on the shore of Quesnel Lake on Cedar Creek Road and their biggest concern continues to be the discharge of water from the mine site into Quesnel Lake.

“There is the possibility of it still impacting the quality of the lake,” Watt said.

The problem, he added, is the use of the lake water to dilute the discharged water to make it meet water quality standards.

“Quesnel Lake’s water quality is such higher quality than B.C. water quality guideline standards that in actual fact that means they are continuing to pollute Quesnel Lake and are changing the quality of the water of the lake.”

Watt said he and a group of concerned citizens have asked the mine for data from its instrument readings but to date the mine has not provided them with the information.

The disaster has impacted ecotourism in the area, Watt added.

“Friends and acquaintances I know who run businesses have seen an immediate sharp decline and disappearance. I also understand it has affected the sale of properties. People that have managed to sell have had to drop their values significantly and other people who were selling at the time, had deals disappear.”

Claudine Kadonaga and her husband Randy purchased the Likely Lodge in January 2014, opened it the May long weekend and the breach happened in August of that year.

“Tourism is up this year and with the mine going we are very busy,” Kadonaga said.

In the summer of 2015, 50 per cent of the tourists wanted to know how they could see the “disaster zone,” but this year so far not one person has asked — they are interested in the Gold Rush Trail and what the road is like to Barkerville or Horsefly, she said.

Likely community co-ordinator Lisa Kraus said during a community meeting on July 7, representatives covered some aspects of  the Post Event Environmental Impact Assessment Report.

“Right now the lake is looking OK but one of our concerns is the greenish hue the lake is taking on that it didn’t have before the breach,” Kraus said.

Another one of Kraus’s concerns is the fact there hasn’t been a report done on the social and economic impact of the breach on the local community.

“People are still angry and are asking why is the water still that colour. And why are we getting heavy sediments in our water filter systems?”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Cariboo-Prince George MP Todd Doherty chairs an opioid crisis working group pushing for policies to stop the flow of illicit drugs in Canada. (Victoria Police Department photo)
‘The opioid crisis impacts all of us’: Cariboo Prince Geroge MP Todd Doherty

Todd Doherty is co-chair of Conservative Party caucus opioid crisis working group

As a former reporter and editor at the Tribune, Diana French carries on sharing her ideas through her weekly column. (Photo submitted)
FRENCH CONNECTION: Skating rink welcomed

This lake one will not last long but is still worth it

Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Quesnel Observer.
FOREST INK: New batteries close to industrial level applications

The good news is the hope that this cost should come down each year

Researchers in B.C. say earlier than usual return of bats or dead bats can indicate trouble, such as signs of white-nose syndrome. (Cathy Koot photo)
Public help is essential for monitoring for bat disease

Anyone finding a dead bat is asked to report it to the BC Community Bat Program

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A cross-country skier glides along the banks of the Ottawa River in Ottawa on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. Canadians across the country can look forward to a mild spring peppered with the odd winter flashback throughout the first part of the season, according to predictions from one prominent national forecaster. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Mild spring with some wintry blasts predicted for most of Canada: Weather Network

Weather Network is forecasting a slower than average start to spring in British Columbia

AstraZeneca’s vaccines are ready for use at the vaccination center in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb.28, 2021. (Michael Reichel/dpa via AP)
Feds hoping for AstraZeneca shots this week as Pfizer-BioNTech prepare next delivery

The first of those doses could start to arrive in Canada as early as Wednesday

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

Most Read