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Toxic Sludge in the Cariboo

Screen Shot 2014-08-06 at 6.27.04 PM
This is basically mountain top removal, a gold/silver/copper strip mine on top of what once was a mountain. It's a guaranteed danger to all the bodies of water below.

33 aerial photographs of the disaster.

The word is that Imperial Metals gold mine has been repeatedly cited for violations and the BC Government has been warned of the dangers of a breach in the mud dam holding the toxic tailings. Serious concerns were raised in 2009. The photographs remind one of the devastation industry is causing in places like Nigeria. But this is Canada, where one would expect strict regulations. Those regulations built up over the last 30 years have been destroyed by the present Harper government. This government has closed water research stations, muzzled government scientists and scrapped our environmental regulations or altered them in favour of industry. We are seeing the results.

Cariboo District declares state of emergency
The millions of cubic metres of water that poured out of Mount Polley mine when the dam collapsed had failed provincial water quality guidelines for human and aquatic health in the past, according to the B.C. environment ministry and early Wednesday the Cariboo Regional District declared a state of local emergency.
Red flags raised years before B.C. mine-tailings spill, consultant says
The spill from Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley copper/gold mine in B.C.’s Cariboo region on Monday happened just weeks after the mining company asked provincial authorities for permission to increase the amount of treated waste water it could release from the tailings pond. Ministry officials said in a statement on Tuesday they were considering the request when the breach occurred.

[The] mine disposed of substances including arsenic (406,122 kg in 2013), lead (177,041 kg) and mercury (3,114 kg) [in 2013 according to government inventory.]

“If they had started discharging the water and treating it some time ago, then it would take the pressures off the dam. … Clearly, a buildup of water is not a good thing.”

What's in the tailings mix?
What's in the tailings and should you be worried.?
Substances listed as disposed “on-site” in Imperial Metals’ 2013 Mount Polley Mine report (Note: We still don’t know how mobile these solids were, how much was in water, and how much spilled as solids in Monday’s massive breach)

Phosphorus – 41,640 tonnes
Manganese – 20,988 tonnes
Copper – 18,413 tonnes
Vanadium – 5,047 tonnes
Zinc – 2,169 tonnes
Cobalt – 475 tonnes
Nickel – 326 tonnes
Antimony – 14 tonnes
Arsenic – 406,122 kg
Lead – 177,041 kg
Selenium – 46,136 kg
Cadmium – 6,487 kg
Mercury – 3,114 kg

The mine was under no legal obligation to act on recommendations from environmental consultants. A foreman at the dam predicted that this would happen because there was a breach last year that weakened the entire system.

The stock of Imperial Metals has taken a dive, down 39.46%.

The share price of Imperial Metal Corp. of Imperial Metal Corp. dropped sharply in heavy trading Tuesday morning, the first day of trading after news breaking about a breach of the tailings dam.

Read more:

More links from Dr. Andrew Weaver, MLA, BC Green Party & Climate Scientist
Mount Polley Tailings Pond Breach
The breach appeared to catch the president of Imperial Metals by surprise, as he denied any indication that the dam would burst. In a town hall, Brian Kynoch said “if you asked me two weeks ago if it could happen, I would have said it couldn’t.”

However, this dam has been the subject of at least one review commissioned by the Williams Lake First Nation and Imperial Metals in 2009 and published in 2011. In the report, Brian Olding, operator of Brian Olding and Associates Ltd. (the environmental consultant that was retained for the report), said the tailings pond was accumulating water so quickly that it would have needed to discharge about 1.4 million cubic metres of water a year to keep its levels stable. This would require the dam to find a sustainable means of discharging water to prevent excessive build up. Oldings assessment found the pond levels were already getting too high five years ago.

Testing and Cleanup is the Priority for Mount Polley Mine Breach
“The problem now is not what we do know, but what we don’t know” said Andrew Weaver. “I have asked the Minister of Environment to consider independent testing of the water and sediment mixture to reassure local residents, and everyone potentially affected downstream, that the information is complete and impartial”
Updates 08 August
Understaffing, deregulation to blame for Mount Polley tailings pond disaster: critics

Deregulation and staffing cutbacks to BC government regulators may be to blame to Imperial Metals' Mount Polley tailings pond disaster, which dumped five million cubic metres of toxic waste near the Quesnel and Cariboo Rivers.

“The government isn't inspecting the mines, and the mining companies know it,” said Glenda Ferris, a longtime advocate for environmentally safe mining in British Columbia who has previously consulted with government and First Nations on mining issues. A landowner near Houston, BC,  she lives beside the now-closed Equity Silver mine, which dumped acid-generating tailings waste into the environment in 1982.

Ferris said the BC government has relied excessively on the mining industry to self-regulate itself as ministries underwent budget cuts in the 1990s, meaning that the problem could be systemic.

Grand Chief compares Mount Polley disaster to Exxon Valdez
Like the Exxon Valdez, Mount Polley will be synonymous with one of the most disastrous environmental events in British Columbia," he said, adding that both events were preventable.

The collapse of the Mount Polley dam Monday morning caused 5 million cubic metres of fine sediment and toxic effluent to flow into the Hazeltine Creek and connecting waterways. The surrounding area, the STNC confirms, is in a state of emergency and in need of immediate action.

STNC said it had, over years, criticized Imperial Metals for a lack of adequate safety procedures, and that the company ignored its agreement to contact surrounding First nation communities when the disaster did strike.

Originally posted to DK GreenRoots on Wed Aug 06, 2014 at 04:03 PM PDT.

Also republished by Canadian Kossacks.

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