Information about the Mount Polley Mine tailings breach is coming in dribs and drabs, residents told B.C.’s Minister of Environment Mary Polak when she met with them in Likely last Friday.
“People want answers and they want to move on with their lives,” Polak told people at the Tourism Discovery Centre during a chamber-hosted event Friday evening. “They want to know the whys and wheres and how did this happen. We will not know until the investigations are complete.”
Local resident Wendy Tuerlings said the community is divided.
“Some are working, some are on the cleanup, but most of us are on our own,” Tuerlings said. “We would like everyone to know we are struggling out there and everything is not OK.”
Echoing Polak Tuerlings said the community isn’t getting answers and the company isn’t having meetings with them like they have asked for.
“They’ve only gone down a metre in Polley Lake and that’s seven centimetres a day. If we get rain Polley Lake is going to go up again,” she said.
Imperial Metals has submitted plans that are presently being reviewed by the government and expected to be finalized in the next few weeks.
The plan will have two phases.
The first phase will take the cleanup to June 2015 while the second phase will be for the very long term.
“That second phase will have to be adaptive,” Polack added. “This is unchartered territory.”
Ministry staff also heard that communication and information needs to be improved.
There are links on the ministry’s website to data from First Nations, UNBC and Mount Polley tests, Polack said, however, noted not everyone uses the Internet so that’s a challenge.
“Some people want the open mic sessions and other people aren’t as comfortable with them because they don’t get their questions answered.”
Polack promised to visit the region from time to time, saying government knows the impacts of the mine breach will be felt for the long haul.
Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Coralee Oakes and Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett also toured Likely with Polack and announced $50,000 of funding for the Likely Chamber of Commerce towards help with economic development and longterm plans for the community.
“The impact of the breach is affecting the entire region,” Oakes said.
Barnett said the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast Tourism Association is filming the site as it is now to show how the breach is cleaned up compared to the day of and following the spill.
“We have to get the message out there that everything is OK, people are alive, the water is good, the fish are good throughout the whole region,” Barnett said.
Claudine and Randy Kadonaga purchased the Likely Pub, Hotel and Restaurant last January and said the mine breach has definitely put Likely on the map and she sees that as a positive thing.
Even after the breach a group of 17 motorcyclists from Germany came to the restaurant en route to Barkerville.
“They don’t have gravel roads in Germany and they were thrilled about travelling our roads,” she said.
And in 2016, the Unlikely Paddlefest wants to go really big with its 25th anniversary celebration.
“I’m hoping to get funding to put in a second washroom by then,” she smiled.