Column: Mount Polley, one year later

It’s been a year since our community learned about a large and unprecedented breach at the Mount Polley Mine tailings storage facility.

It’s been a year since our community learned about a large and unprecedented breach at the Mount Polley Mine tailings storage facility. The news shook everyone — residents, First Nations, labour, industry and government alike. While the complete restoration of the area will take years to complete, significant progress has been made on environmental mitigation and remediation over the past year. This is all outlined in the One-Year Remediation Report released this week by our government.

To date, we consider these Phase 1 activities complete or suitably initiated: safety (e.g., woody debris removed from Quesnel Lake); containment of tailings; monitoring; protection of archaeological resources; protection of fish; erosion mitigation; water treatment; and reporting. One of these actions was to ensure the water quality in Quesnel Lake met provincial water quality guidelines, which has occurred.

Phase 2 will focus on remediation through summer 2016 and beyond, and will include an ecological and human health risk assessment. We will continue to work closely with First Nations, the local communities and the company to ensure a comprehensive long-term plan for monitoring, remediation and restoration is implemented.

Throughout this careful process of cleanup, investigation and remediation, local families have had to cope with the shutdown of the mill and the impact on their jobs and livelihoods. I know that the recent announcement of the mine’s re-start — with conditions — has been welcome news for our communities of Likely, Williams Lake, and 100 Mile House. We all look forward to seeing the mine up and running sometime within the next month.

In the meantime, we want to hear from you. The Post Event Environmental Impact Assessment Report is now posted online at http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/eemp/incidents/2014/mount-polley/. I encourage you to have a look and give your feedback.

Coralee Oakes is the MLA for Cariboo North and is the Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development.

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