Tofino activist joins Mount Polley legal fight

“These groups will be standing with us when the time comes.”

A Tofino local marched into William’s Lake’s provincial courthouse alongside MiningWatch Canada on Oct. 18 to file a private prosecution against the provincial government and Imperial Metals.

Clayoquot Action co-founder Dan Lewis told the Westerly News it was important for him to show his support in-person for MiningWatch’s claim that both the province and the mining company violated the Fisheries Act in regards to the Mount Polley disaster of 2014.

“They’re taking the company Imperial Metals and the province of B.C. to task on this and they’re hoping that they’ll win and that somebody will be found to be criminally responsible for what happened,” Lewis said.

“We’re financially supporting that and I came up here to be here on the ground and physically show support for what they’re doing.”

Operations at the open pit copper and gold Mount Polley mine were halted on Aug. 4, 2014, after a trailing storage facility breach spilled roughly 24 million cubic metres of mine waste and water into nearby Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake.

The mine reopened on Aug. 5, 2015.

“Nobody has taken responsibility and nobody has been found to be guilty of any breaches of law,” Lewis said. “If you can get away with the largest mining disaster in Canadian history and there are no repercussions whatsoever, either legal or financial, that’s just the wrong message to send to other mining companies and certainly to Imperial Metals.”

He suggested MiningWatch’s legal action is locally significant because Imperial Metals is flirting with potential mine sites in Clayoquot Sound. In 2013, the company received an exploration permit to assess the previously-abandoned Fandora gold mine about 20 kilometres from Tofino. The company’s foray into Fandora was immediately opposed by the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation and Tofino’s municipal council, which expressed frustration over the lack of authority local governments have when it comes to mining permits being approved.

Lewis said MiningWatch is adept at gathering and collaborating with local organizations and Clayoquot Action’s support in William’s Lake could lead to support coming the other way in the future.

“We want to send a message to Imperial Metals that, if they want to come to Clayoquot Sound and open a mine, they’re going to experience opposition,” he said. “These groups will be standing with us when the time comes.”