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Quesnel Lake dodges Mount Polley tailings bullet

A report assessing the fallout from the Mount Polley tailings-pond breach in B.C.’s Cariboo region says Quesnel Lake appears to have survived a major pollution disaster.

Researchers from the University of Northern B.C. and the University of B.C. studied the massive sediment plume within Quesnel Lake in the three month’s following the dam’s collapse.

UBC physicist Bernard Laval says much of the mine tailings were flushed downstream following the breach, but an unknown amount ended up at the bottom of Quesnel Lake, and only years of monitoring will determine if the debris is harmful to the lake and its fish.

The tailings-pond breach last August at the gold-and-copper mine spilled 24-million cubic metres of silt and water into area waterways, including Quesnel Lake, a major sockeye salmon habitat.

Environment Minister Mary Polak says the study matches current and consistent clean water tests, but she also says years of testing are necessary.

A delegation from Alaska that includes the state’s lieutenant governor will visit the Mount Polley site this week after raising concerns about the potential of northern B.C. mines polluting rivers that flow downstream to Alaska.

 

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