An open letter to the B.C. Government
Imperial Metals Corp. (IMC) is shutting down Mount Polley Mine (MPMC) indefinitely. The permit approved on April 7, 2017 returned the mine to full operation based on discharging untreated effluent directly into Quesnel Lake. Many outstanding questions and concerns remain about how we got to this point, particularly regarding what closure means to the once pristine environment in and around Quesnel Lake.
The permit expires in 2022, but IMC’s posted mine-life is to at least 2026 based on ore contained within the flooded Springer Pit. Why did the mine in 2019 suddenly become uneconomic? The mine plan to pump out Springer Pit by 2018 did not occur, so was it planned strategy to have Springer Pit ore unavailable, thus ensuring poor economic conditions about the time that possible federal environmental charges may loom? What happened to the $108 million MPMC received for “damages” from the engineering companies?
MPMC promised in the 1990s that there would be no water discharge from the mine site, and never into Quesnel Lake. The 2017 permit does require the untreated effluent discharge be terminated by December 31, 2022, and replaced by alternative distributed discharge/biological treatment systems.
The Ministry of Environment has been very supportive to MPMC amendment requests, such as on October 2, 2018, they approved an amendment with no public consultation. This reduced Quesnel Lake monitoring frequency from weekly/monthly to only four times a year. On that same day, at the on-site public liaison committee meeting, we were told only that discussions were still underway. Later, the ministry had the gall to claim that this was a “minor” amendment that did not require public consultation, and as well, a Mount Polley staff member later told the PLC ”Oh sorry, we forgot to mention that … we are just human after all.” Balderdash!!
I believe it is impossible to trust or believe what IMC and MPMC say about future actions.
MPMC should not be granted another permit amendment that further reduces their responsibility to clean up the mess that they made. The government and regulators must enforce the present permit deadline for stopping the discharge into Quesnel Lake by Dec. 31, 2022.
Editor’s note: This letter is edited for available space. Also, Brian Kynoch, president of Imperial Metals confirmed a settlement with engineers was received and the money went back into the company. He also said the 1997 mine plan provided for much of the water to be discharged into the environment, and it was only the water going through the mill that would go to the tailings storage facility. Later in the permitting it was decided the water should be collected from the rock storage and put into the tailings storage as well.