The Mount Polley Mine (MPMC) plan to discharge mine-site effluent into Quesnel Lake is certainly fraught with complex issues.
There are the obvious environmental considerations, the corporate business model to ensure company profits, and the economic spinoffs of the jobs for people and communities.
I fully support MPMC to operate the mine and make a profit, and note that they have been a very profitable mine in the past, and can be again once they get past the immediate challenges of mitigating the dam breach.
As per the Imperial Metals (IMC) website, MPMC typically has a cash cost per pound of copper produced of around U.S. $1 per pound of copper equivalent, which was a pretty good margin in the past (IMC had $41 Million Net Income in 2013).
MPMC also reported known resources in 2013 of 411 Million tonnes at 0.482 per cent Cu equivalent, which at 22,000 tons per day is over 50 years of production.
The gross value of that resource today at only U.S.$2.20 per pound Cu is over U.S.$8 billion. Is IMC going to shutdown the mine and walk away from that?
Obviously I cannot predict the future but I would be surprised if they could do so, and it is disappointing that a corporation with such huge economic value would not consider spending, in relative terms, a few cents more to minimize impact on the sensitive Quesnel Lake environment.
Complacency is something that seems to develop the further away someone is from the immediate impact area, so that concerns for the environment drop off and apparent economic considerations take the forefront, even if they are based on skewed assumptions. Do you think there could be people in Williams Lake that, based on economic considerations alone, would prefer that the Williams Lake Sewage Treatment Plant was discharged direct into Williams Lake (because it’s closer and cheaper to operate), rather than being piped down to the Fraser River?
On the environmental front, the University of Northern BC’s Quesnel River Research Centre (UNBC QRRC) after 2 years has finally received funding to study the effects of the dam breach on Quesnel Lake.
Note that the International Innovation Newsletter (“Protecting the pristine Quesnel watershed in Canada,” Jan. 29, 2016) reports that: “The QRRC team predicts that it will take several years, or perhaps even decades, before the full impacts of the breach are realized.”
Residents have lived along Quesnel Lake for many decades and have observed and reported significant impacts on the lake, but nobody appears to be following up on it.
The breach impacts are not yet identified, and certainly not mitigated, but MPMC for simple convenience and monetary reasons, wants to continue discharging effluent into Quesnel Lake for possibly decades to come.
I support that MPMC should operate, but it must protect the sensitive Quesnel Lake environment, which the present proposal does not.