Residents oppose mine’s release of effluent into lake

A group of Quesnel Lake residents do not want Mount Polley Mine discharging any mine effluent into Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake.

A group of Quesnel Lake residents do not want Mount Polley Mine discharging any mine effluent into Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake.

The group has written letters to the Ministries of Mines and Environment asking them to stop letting the mine “continue to pollute Quesnel Lake with untreated tailings water,” but has yet to receive a reply, said Mitchell Bay resident Kim Goforth.

In March the mine received authorization to discharge untreated water to deal with freshet flow and a bottleneck at the water treatment plant.

The authorization stipulated only water that meets the permit discharge quality will be allowed to be discharged, the Ministry of Mines said in an e-mail.

In their letter the group said there is no data on the daily discharge of treated and untreated water since March 11, 2016.

“We have a total discharge rate, but it is not at all clear what exactly is now polluting Quesnel Lake and how much,” the letter stated.

Goforth also said the mine has developed 10 options for long-term water management but seems to be favouring the option to discharge into Quesnel Lake because that is the cheapest option.

“There are other options that are pretty viable and we are trying to drive that home,” he added. “Mount Polley Mine needs to install a water treatment plant that can treat all excess mine effluent to a particular standard and release it into the environment closer to the mine.”

Before the mine was there, some of the water from rainwater and snow melt flowed to Polley Lake and eventually into Quesnel Lake and another 30 per cent flowed toward the Bootjack Lake system, he said.

Imperial Metals vice-president of corporate affairs Steve Robertson said the company is currently in the permitting process, which is designed to ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to express their point of view and have it considered.

“The local residents that have written this letter are participating in the community engagement and their input has been acknowledged,” Robertson said. “At this time, we will continue to proceed within the regulatory framework established by the province to come to a solution that is the best for all stakeholders.”

Goforth said no one in the group wants the mine to close.

“We’ve all got friends working there and we don’t want to see them out of work, but we have to be doing what’s acceptable to the environment.”

Mount Polley Mine will be hosting a public meeting on Wednesday, May 25, in Likely to discuss options for its long-term water management plan.