After touring the Mount Polley Mine breach site Wednesday with other politicians and officials, Cariboo Regional District Chair Al Richmond said he was relieved to see the restoration work being done in the Hazeltine Creek area.
“I am pleased to stand on the ground today and see the clear water running in the creek, the vegetation growing and the area partially repaired,” Richmond said, adding to see it in person also gave him a better understanding of the magnitude of the breach.
Mayor Walt Cobb was also impressed.
“When you compare it to a year ago it’s amazing to see what we’re back at now,” Cobb said.
Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett was on site the day of the breach on Aug. 4, 2014 and said a year later it looked like a different place.
Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes thanked the company for communicating with communities throughout the year.
“All along you communicated what was happening,” Oakes told Imperial Metals staff. “You recognized that there were fears and concerns and were able to respond.”
It was the first time Mining Association of Canada president and CEO Pierre Gratton had visited the breach site.
Specifically, he was impressed with the spreading of woody debris along the Hazeltine Creek restoration area.
“You are going the extra mile to really restore this place,” Gratton said.
Likely community co-ordinator Lisa Kraus reminded the group that many of the people working on the restoration work live in the area and want it to look nice.
“They are giving it their heart and soul,” Kraus said. “One of the fellows on the excavator is from Mitchell Bay and he’s going to do his best to make it look good for us who live here. I know they are working for you and you guys designed it, but we want it to look the best it can.”
To date the company has spent $67 million on remediation and while he couldn’t pinpoint when the work will be completed or how much more it will cost the company, Imperial Metals vice-president of corporate affairs Steve Robertson anticipated it will still take a “long time” to get to the end.
“It is a major milestone that we got the mill up and running Tuesday,” Robertson said, noting there are 186 people working and he’s hopeful that number will reach 220.
To return to the 370 employee mark the mine had prior to the breach would require the company acquiring a water discharge permit and a long-term plan for a tailings storage facility, said Mount Polley Mine general manager Dale Reimer.
“We still have a number of hurdles to overcome,” he said.
The sooner the company can stop using the Springer Pit to store tailings the better, said Imperial Metals president Brian Kynoch.
“One day we will have to dig all the tailings out of Springer Pit because the biggest part of the resource left here is underneath the bottom of the Springer Pit,” Kynoch said. “Yeah we’ve got almost a year, but just because we have that time doesn’t mean we should take that long.”
The next round of community meetings are scheduled for the last week of August. They will be in Likely Aug. 24, Xat’sull Aug. 25, Williams Lake Aug. 26, and Quesnel on Aug. 27.