Rosanne and Stan Siemens of Quesnel were boating on Quesnel Lake and couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the massive debris pile from the breach of the Mount Polley Mine tailings pond.

Rosanne and Stan Siemens of Quesnel were boating on Quesnel Lake and couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw the massive debris pile from the breach of the Mount Polley Mine tailings pond.

Likely residents fear the worst after Mount Polley Mine disaster

A pall of uncertainty hangs over Likely as a total breach in the Mount Polley tailings pond continues to pour Quesnel Lake.

A pall of uncertainty hangs over Likely as a total breach in the Mount Polley tailings pond continues to pour a slurry of toxic water and mud into Quesnel Lake, once renowned for being the cleanest deep water lake in the world.

In the early hours of August 4, the four-kilometre-long dam containing the tailings pond of the copper and gold mine burst, sending millions of tons of contaminated water, mud and mining slurry into the salmon-bearing water system.

Hazeltine Creek, previously a stream two metres wide, is now a wasteland 50 metres across, after five million cubic metres of effluent flooded into nearby Polley Lake and carved its own canyon several kilometres in length to Quesnel Lake.

Eye-witnesses to the devastation, Stan and Rosanne Siemens of Quesnel, were boating on the East Arm of Quesnel Lake. When they turned the corner on their way back to Likely they could hardly believe their eyes. A mile down the lake a floating mass of twisted trees stretched half way across the lake.

“It’s rude up there,” Stan Siemens says. “Half way across the lake trees were sticking straight up. I’m a logger and it would take us a year to take that many trees down, and this happened in 20 minutes.”

The land is destroyed, Rosanne Siemens adds. “Raft Creek is a river now. It’s all mud.”


VIDEO: Mount Polley Mine Tailings Pond Breach (August 4, 2014)


A toxic plume continues to build in the lake and move down the outflow into the Quesnel River at Likely. Before nightfall the water advisory for Likely had been expanded for the whole Quesnel River system to the City of Quesnel on the Fraser River.

Robin Hood, president of the Likely Chamber of Commerce, is grim as his wife, Darlene, hands out water advisory notices to people recreating on the shore of the river.

“The whole economy of this town (Likely) is dependent on the mine and tourism,” Hood says. “Now we might have lost both overnight.”

Sitting in the shade on the porch of Likely’s general store, 28-year-old Kalvin King is checking the Internet on his smartphone.

He’s from Horsefly but has a placer claim above Quesnel Forks. He’s been working four days and was going to jump in the lake and go for a swim before he got the water advisory.

“I haven’t had a shower for four days so I’m pretty hot,” says Kalvin, who describes himself as a guy who’s not very concerned about anything.

“I’ve worked at both Mount Polley and Gibraltar so I know what stuff is in the tailings ponds. It’s there for a good reason and it’s supposed to stay there and not leave. It’s an environmental disaster.”

He says he’ll probably go back to Horsefly for his shower.

Placer miner, Chris Fournier, 45, pulls up to the gas pumps of the store in his quad ATV. He lives down river from the townsite and washed his face in the river and had a drink before he heard of the breach and the water advisory.

“It tasted like sucking pennies,” he said.

He was fishing for Chinook salmon the day before in the Cariboo River and is worried about the effect on the various salmon runs making their way up the Fraser River.

He said workers at Mount Polley Mine warned him that the tailings pond was going to breach. “And it did.”

Aileen Peterson, owner of Valley General Store in Likely for eight years, said the water level on Quesnel Lake behaved strangely.

“It went up and then down and few feet. We got a call at 6 a.m. that everybody had to take their boats out of the water.”

Robin Hood applauds the actions of Likely First Responders who woke him up at 5 a.m. and evacuated the Cedar Point Provincial Campsite over fears that the breach would cause a Tsunami.

“It’s better to err on the side of precaution,” he says.

For Likely pub owners Randy and Claudine Kadonaga, there are still a lot of unanswered questions.

“So far there are a lot of rumours,” says Randy. “We’re waiting to see what happens.”

“We don’t have anything to say until we know more,” adds Claudine. “We opened early on Monday and served a lot of breakfasts when they evacuated Cedar Point Park.”

Waiting in the balance is the plight of 500 employees of Mount Polley Mine.

Jamie Regier, who works for Ducks Unlimited, took one last dip in Quesnel River with his three-year-old daughter, Lauren, before the toxic debris reached Likely.

“I’m pretty shocked,” he said. “The entire impact is going to ruin this town. I have a lot of friends at Mount Polley, and it’s going to be shut down.”

An employee of Mount Polly Mine who was on shift the night of the breach and asked to remain anonymous, confirmed you can’t operate a mine without a tailings pond facility.

“Thank God nobody was killed or injured. If that breach would have occurred during the day with all the contract workers in the area, it wouldn’t have been so good.”

Rick Matthews, a former Moorhouse Lake resident, boated down Quesnel Lake to view the debris pile on Monday. He is worried that unless something is done, the mass of logs will get swept down the Quesnel River with devastating results.

“The floating island of logs is creeping towards Likely,” he says. “There needs to be damage control or it will pile up against the bridge and could take it out.”


More video from the Cariboo Regional District’s Emergency Operations Centre…

Just Posted

Scout Island Nature Centre. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
LETTER: Scout Island causeway important riparian habitat

We appreciate this opportunity to clarify how Scout Island Nature Centre lands is managed

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

Crews work to repair Horsefly Road east of Williams Lake . (Ministry of Transportation video)
MoTI activates district operations centre, response to flood damaged roads in Cariboo region

Engineers, experts being pulled from across the province to help

RCMP officers on scene Friday, May 14 off Bond Lake Road on the outskirts of Williams Lake. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Update: Williams Lake RCMP arrest one suspect after firearms incident near Bond Lake Road

Given the severity, suspect is being held in custody for a court appearance

An official naming ceremony for the Nekw7usem Bridge connecting the RC Cotton Trail to Scout Island will take place Monday, May 17 at noon. (Patrick Davies file photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
City, WLFN hosting naming ceremony for Nekw7usem Bridge in Williams Lake

The pedestrian bridge connects the RC Cotton Trail to Scout Island

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

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

Chilliwack’s Kile Brown, performing as drag queen Hailey Adler, dances and lip syncs in front of hundreds of people during the inaugural Chilliwack Pride Barbecue at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre on Aug. 24, 2019. Monday, May 17 is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of May 16 to 22

International Day Against Homophobia, Talk Like Yoda Day, Sea Monkey Day all coming up this week

Bradley Priestap in an undated photo provided to the media some time in 2012 by the London Police Service.
Serial sex-offender acquitted of duct tape possession in B.C. provincial court

Ontario sex offender on long-term supervision order was found with one of many ‘rape kit’ items

Rich Coleman, who was responsible for the gaming file off and on from 2001 to 2013, was recalled after his initial testimony to the Cullen Commission last month. (Screenshot)
Coleman questioned over $460K transaction at River Rock during B.C. casinos inquiry

The longtime former Langley MLA was asked about 2011 interview on BC Almanac program

Steven Shearer, <em>Untitled. </em>(Dennis Ha/Courtesy of Steven Shearer)
Vancouver photographer’s billboards taken down after complaints about being ‘disturbing’

‘Context is everything’ when it comes to understanding these images, says visual art professor Catherine Heard

Trina Hunt's remains were found in the Hope area on March 29. Her family is asking the public to think back to the weekend prior to when she went missing. (Photo courtesy of IHIT.)
Cousin of missing woman found in Hope says she won’t have closure until death is solved

Trina Hunt’s family urges Hope residents to check dashcam, photos to help find her killer

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Most Read