Government has the responsibility to make sure mine tailing storage facilities are built, managed and maintained properly said two NDP MLAs Friday after touring the area impacted by the Mount Polley Mine breach.
“You can’t argue with the fact there’s been a failure here that sits with government and the minister ultimately,” NDP spokesperson for energy and mines Norm Macdonald told the Tribune Friday.
“Government is responsible for the rules and enforcing the rules. Something failed.”
During their tour, Macdonald and NDP environment spokesperson Spencer Chandra Herbert visited Likely and met with many residents and business owners.
On Thursday they toured Quesnel Lake to get a sense of the extent of the plume with long-time resident Lionel Guiltner who lives near Hazeltine Creek and went with Imperial Mines all over the mine site.
“When you are out on the lake and see the size of the trees that have been ripped up it’s incredible,” Macdonald said. “Lionel talks about hearing the noise from his house and trying to figure out what it was.”
Trust has to be restored Macdonald insisted.
“There’s no trust and why would there be?” he said. “We were told by government we had world-class standards for mining and that is not true. Everything government says is going to be looked at with a mistrusting lens.”
Herbert said it’s hard for people to have trust when there are conflicting messages.
“Initially the premier said everything was OK and then when the plume was discovered, everyone realized it wasn’t,” he said.
Government is going to have to do the hard work over the next years to rebuild confidence, learn from the mistakes and do the best to mitigate the disaster, Macdonald added.
Both MLAs said if trust can be restored the mine could restart because there is existing tailings storage capacity.
The spill poses a huge risk to Likely and Quesnel Lake and future resource development.
“We want good resource jobs, which are good for B.C., when done well,” Herbert said.
Government will have to show it has changed and that it has invested in ensuring resource development is balanced with the environment if it wants to proceed, he added.