Thirty hourly and 11 salaried employees have been laid off as a result of the Aug. 4 Mount Polley Mine tailings pond breach, Imperial Metals confirmed Tuesday.
“We have 336 employees on the payroll right now and cannot make any predictions on future layoffs because the situation is fluid and subject to change,” said Steve Robertson, vice-president of corporate affairs, adding it is mostly staff from the mine involved in on-site cleanup and mine-related activities.
While the focus is on cleanup and remediation, the company will have to fully plan out the process before it can talk about when the mine could possibly restart, he explained.
When asked what steps are being taken to deal with the devastation to Hazeltine Creek because of the breach, the anticipated return of spawning coho salmon there, and whether alternate spawning beds will be found, Robertson said a crew is on site this week assessing fisheries related matters and will update the community once a full plan is in place.
As for Bootjack Lake, Roberston said there are no concerns that tailings entered the lake.
“The elevation of the tailings prior to the breach was 17 metres lower than Bootjack Lake and the lake is a straight line distance of 2.2 km in the opposite direction from the flow of the tailings breach.”
Mount Polley has a reverse osmosis station on site to treat water prior to release into the environment to meet aquatic life guidelines, however, Robertson said the impact to the environment would mostly be from the scouring event and the deposit of tailings over the outlet of Polley Lake, the delta of Hazeltine Creek and into Quesnel Lake.
“The potential for ongoing impacts of aquatic life, wildlife and humans will be closely monitored, but with the information that we have we expect the potential for significant negative long-term impact from a chemistry perspective to be low,” Robertson said. “Testing to examine this is of utmost importance, however, and will be ongoing.”
Mount Polley has been hosting community meetings in Likely since the disaster. The next one is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 27.