Friday, August fourth is the three-year anniversary of the Mount Polley disaster, where the tailing pond’s dam breached at the gold and copper mine, sending 24 million cubic metres of mine waste, debris and sludge into nearby waterways and ultimately Quesnel Lake.
The BC Conservation Officer Service says this is still an ongoing investigation between their office, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Climate Change Canada.
The issue is that British Columbia’s statute of limitations expires this Friday as well and the investigation is underway with no signs of any action as the deadline creeps near.
The investigation falls under the Provincial Environmental Management Act and the Federal Fisheries Act to be presented to the Public Prosecution Service of Canada should charges be recommended.
Chris Doyle, Deputy Chief Conservation Officer with the BC Conservation Officer Service says his office is working collaboratively with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Climate Change Canada, but other than those details, nothing specific has been released about any legal action or reparation towards the company.
The federal limitations have a time length of 5 years, so even if Friday comes and passes without any action from the new provincial government, the federal government still has two years to step up and seek damages from the company.
Jacinda Mack is the mining coordinator of FNWARM-First Nations Woman Advocating Responsible Mining, an initiative comprised of indigenous women who’s ‘priority is to protect their homes, communities and traditional lands and waters from the type of mining practices that have left BC riddled with close to 2,000 abandoned mines – two-thirds of which are still spewing pollutants,’ according to their website.
She says it is a national event because Mount Polley is a warning to those living near mines and dams across the country, and a demonstration of how much still needs to be done to make them safe.
Mack is planning to hold vigils across the province to honour the water and inform people about the ongoing disaster. Mack says the disaster is ongoing because the mine is still operating and still releasing pollutants into the watershed.
The current wildfire situation outside of Quesnel will mean that they cannot hold the gatherings at Quesnel Lake, so Mack is asking everyone to go to their local water source and share their appreciation on social media with the hashtag Sister Streams.
Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heyman has issued the following statement about the ongoing investigation into the Mount Polley tailings pond breach stating, “The collapse of the tailings facility at Mount Polley was one of the worst environmental disasters in our province’s history. It has had tremendous consequences for the local environment and economy.
“A disaster like this should never have happened in B.C., and it must never happen again.”
Heyman says he fully supports the federal investigation and that the potential charges under the federal fisheries act remain very much in play and, in fact, potential penalties are more significant.