A tailings water spill at Gibraltar Mine on May 22 did not require follow-up, says the Ministry of Environment.
On May 23, Taseko reported a spill to the Ministry of Environment and the nearby First Nations community of Alexandria.
Companies cannot be 100 per cent sure of the water quality leaving, so all spills have to be reported, MOE environmental emergency response officer Dale Bull says.
In an e-mail sent to Chief Bernie Elkins of Alexandria, Taseko’s senior environmental engineer Todd Wambolt reported that at about 8 a.m. on May 23, water was discovered in an area of the reclaim water pipeline, which runs from the storage tank into the mill.
The flow rate was estimated at 100 litres per minute and by 9:15 a.m. the flow was diverted through a portable pump into our surface collection system.
As a result the mill was shut down and the pipeline repaired.
Bull says 6,000 litres seems like a large number for people who don’t work with it all the time; however, he points out the Fraser River near Williams Lake or Prince George will pump that much water in a fraction of a second.
“The released water isn’t toxic and won’t have any chemicals in it. The only thing it might have is suspended solids, little bits of rock, that are floating in it. When they discovered it they put a pump into the natural stream and pumped it back into their containment system until they could make repairs and pump it out the way it supposed to go.”
Taseko’s vice president of corporate affairs Brian Battison says the hole in the pipe was described to him as the size of the tip of the thumb.
“It was water from the tailings facility, water that is discharged to the Fraser River in any event, so it’s clean water,” Battison says. “It was a pipe that takes water from the tailings facility to the mill and it had developed a leak. We’re required to report such matters and report any kind of a spill.”
Tsilhqot’in National Government chair and Tl’etinqox (Anaham) chief Joe Alphonse is concerned about the mine water flowing into the Fraser River.
“I think it’s something worth reporting on. Those are fish-bearing streams and there are huge concerns,” Alphonse says.