I am writing this letter in response to the Oct. 18, 2016 letter from Mr. Dale Reimer, Mine Manager at Mount Polley Mine (MPMC), in support of the MPMC Long-Term Water Management Plan and Technical Assessment Report (TAR) application.
Local residents are aware that water must be discharged from the mine site, but as was promised by Imperial Metals in the first public meetings in the 1990s, there was to be no direct discharge of mine water into Quesnel Lake (QL).
MPMC has previously discharged mine water to the environment via local watersheds, and when the breach occurred, was in the process of permitting another discharge into Polley Lake and Hazeltine Creek.
This treated water may have been naturally attenuated (to lessen possible negative impacts) before it reached QL.
MPMC would also have been using reverse osmosis, a true Best Available Technology, and not the simple settling technology they are using now.
The MPMC technical report is a flawed document in that it does not differentiate discharge options between the present (“interim” as MPMC describes it) mine operation phase, and the final Closure and Reclamation phase.
In addition, the plan only includes meeting the BC Water Quality Guidelines (BCWQG), and does not include returning QL back to the pristine water body it was prior to the 2014 dam breach. Even at that, MPMC requires a 100 metre initial dilution zone (IDZ) in QL to ensure that the pipe discharge water meets the BCWQG, which is significantly higher in a number of Contaminants of Potential Concern (COPC) and other criteria, than the natural background levels of the previously pristine QL water.
Distributed discharge and natural attenuation through the local watersheds is a commendable goal for post-closure, but the only viable and quickly implemented options for discharging the mine effluent during the operational phase are QL or Quesnel River (QR).
Relative to QR, the west arm of QL is a static and fragile water body with three months or more water retention time.
The QR is more dynamic and fast moving and the discharge water will quickly mix and be diluted by the Cariboo and Fraser river waters.
The TAR reports three to four- years of mine operations before they start an expected two-year transition to the closure plan, but it is well known that MPMC has long-term ore reserves that will extend operations 10 to 20 years or more into the future. What is going to happen to QL, still trying to recover from the effects of the 30 million m3 dam breach, as up to 10 million m3/year of mine waste water is dumped into the lake for potentially up to 20 years or more?
The present temporary discharge into QL was agreed to by locals as an interim measure only, to assist the mine in handling a water problem of their own making.
It was agreed at that time that MPMC would develop a plan for discharging the water into QR.
MPMC in the present options analysis has not seriously included local suggestions and concerns, because, as they did not like the feedback they were receiving, they cut off the options analysis consultation meetings.
MPMC and Imperial Metals have been a positive benefit to local communities, and their support for community projects is appreciated and acknowledged.
I and many other residents around the lake fully support the operation of Mount Polley Mine, but not at the expense of continued degradation of Quesnel Lake. If MPMC truly take “…responsibility to our community and the environment…” seriously, then the QR discharge option is fully attainable, even though more expensive and technically challenging, and it will then hopefully ensure that QL can be returned back to its pre-breach pristine condition as quickly as possible.
To pull a quote from a letter by another Likely resident back in 2014, all of us, the public and residents, the First Nations, the government, regulators and the mine, should “… pull together as a family for the future of our children … and many generations to follow.”
Doug Watt, Likely Chamber Liaison