The recent actions of Williams Lake Mayor and council have drawn the ire of B.C.’s mines minister.
Early last week Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb began demanding the Ministry of Environment issue a water discharge permit immediately for Mount Polley Mine or risk another environmental and economic catastrophe.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there,” said Bennett, who contacted the Tribune Monday ‘to set the record straight.’
“Government works with the information it’s given and as recently as Nov. 20, Mount Polley Mine told us that if they get their temporary water discharge permit by Dec. 15, even if there is an extremely wet winter, the water is not going to reach the permitted 1030-metre level in the Springer Pit until April of 2016.”
Cobb sent a letter to Premier Christy Clark dated Nov. 18, with a resolution passed by city council the night before of the imminent threat, then on Monday, held a press conference at city hall to reiterate the demand, saying as of Friday the water level in the Springer Pit was within six metres of the point where it will begin to seep in the surrounding area and the mine will be forced to cease operations.
Imperial Metals vice-president of corporations Steve Robertson confirmed last week the mine is concerned.
“We continue to gather water on site and we’ve built up enough water that we are not going to be able to discharge it to the point where the Springer Pit won’t fill up to 1030,” Robertson said. “It’s forcing us into a position where we will be out of compliance with our permit.”
Cobb said the delay is unacceptable when the mine has put in a $2 million water filtration plant.
Bennett further criticized Cobb, saying it is unfair to the people who depend on the mine to paint a picture of panic that there is going to be a disaster or that the mine is not going to be able to operate.
The statutory decision makers are working on the permit and have to be satisfied with the information they have been given by the company, Bennett said.
“A lot of time, energy and resources have been invested in making sure, as we open Mount Polley, that it is done in a way that will be able to be sustained over the long term.”
People who make decisions about public safety and the environment have to be driven by factual information and science and cannot be driven by politics, Bennett added.
Last week a Ministry of Environment spokesperson said a decision on the permit is expected by the end of November.