A West Coast team that travelled to the scene of the Mount Polley mine tailings pond dam break in Northern BC was shaken and disheartened by what they saw there. Clayoquot Action Society executive director Dan Lewis and Bonnie Glambeck travelled the 1,000-plus km trip up to the Mount Polley mine at the end of August and spent four days up there.
“I am still completely shook up by what I saw. The tailings spilled through the dam, spilled into Polley Lake, and then spilled into Hazeltine Creek,” Lewis said.
The creek that now cuts a 50-metre swath through the woods was once just two metres wide, Lewis said.
“It was horrendous.” The team didn’t collect any solids, but did get a bit of the water, Lewis said. The plan is to save the water to offer to an Imperial Metals executive, he said.
“The First Nations in Likely (near the scene of the dam break) have completely been left holding the bag,” Lewis said, adding varying updates on the drinking water in the area have ranged from safe, to not safe, to “don’t drink it if it’s cloudy,” to the lake turning green.
Imperial Metals has the mine on Mount Polley, and also is exploring mining options on Fandora and Catface Mountain in the Clayoquot Sound area.
Lewis said that keeps him up nights.
“I don’t think people are opposed to mining, I’m certainly not opposed to mining, but it has to be done right .. It’s absolutely unacceptable for the government to let this happen, the company to let this happen. They’ve got to clean up the mess and look after
the people that were affected,” he said.
The Mount Polley site isn’t even in the same kind of rainbelt that Clayoquot Sound is in, Lewis said.
As for the earthen dam that failed under heavy rains in the Likely area, Dan Lewis thinks that is a fairly obsolete way to deal with tailings.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if this changes way they deal with tailings,” he said.
Clayoquot Action is planning a slide show and presentation of a film by Nitanis Desjarlais, a Clayoquot Sound filmmaker who also travelled to the site.
In Tofino on Tuesday, October 21, Cree/Nuu chah nulth filmmaker
Nitanis Desjarlais, and Dan Lewis Bonny Glambeck will do a presentation at the Clayoquot Community Theatre.
Submitted photo, above: Dan Lewis at Hazeltine Creek, widened by the earthen dam failure at the Mount Polley mine.