Re: Towards a full glass of water, March 22, The Citizen.
As the former chief scientific officer for Imperial Metals from September 2014 to December 2018, I take issue with comments made by the authors about Mount Polley. Full disclosure: I also still do some consulting work for Imperial Metals occasionally, but I write this letter from my own perspective and experience.
The statement that “Imperial Metals was never fined or charged or penalized for the disaster” is false. The company was served immediately with a Pollution Abatement Order by the BC government, and required to pay for all clean-up, repair and remediation.
Imperial Metals behaved responsibly and has done extensive clean-up and remediation work on the areas impacted by the spill. To date, they have spent over $70 million, planting over 665,000 native trees and shrubs, cleaning up and installing new spawning gravels on the impacted shoreline of Quesnel Lake, rebuilding the impacted creeks and installing productive new trout and salmon habitat.
BC’s Ministry of Environment does not issue permits that allow a company to discharge anything to the environment that causes pollution. Permit conditions at Mount Polley are very strict. There is extensive monitoring and reporting required by both provincial and federal governments. There is a water treatment plant to ensure that all mine contact water discharged meets permit requirements. Making sure that excess water is not stored on site is an important part of safe management and follows the best practices advised by the site engineer of record.
It is unfortunate that the authors chose the words they do to describe Mount Polley’s controlled and closely monitored discharge of treated water, which is permitted by the BC Ministry of Environment under Environmental Management Act Permit number 11678. The mine is not “dumping” materials into Quesnel Lake. A word like this is obviously chosen to elicit a negative emotional response.
It is also worth noting that the mine has a longstanding public liaison committee, which meets every quarter. At these meetings, information about mine operations, water treatment, and environmental monitoring is openly shared. This information includes the results of all the monitoring work that the mine has done. There is full disclosure.
All the studies of fish health in the lake have shown no negative impacts from the mine’s discharge and the quality of fishing for anglers continues to be outstanding in Quesnel Lake, with no concerns reported from Interior Health Authority or the First Nations Health Authority. In fact, the salmon that were juveniles in Quesnel Lake the year of the Mount Polley spill, returned to spawn in 2018 “in droves,” to quote a local newspaper headline.
It is disappointing to see the repeated publishing of misleading and alarmist comments, often with tidbits of facts either taken, or presented, way out of context, just to continuously perpetuate misinformation about an industry that generates wealth and opportunity for British Columbia.
With our increased need for greener forms of energy, it is obvious that to do so will require a large increase in the mining of green metals, including copper, nickel, cobalt etc. Copper is the metal produced at Mount Polley and there is lots of potential for more copper mines in BC. The province’s highly regulated and environmentally responsible mining industry, which generates a large number of well-paying and unionized jobs, and works increasingly more collaboratively with Indigenous peoples, provides a huge opportunity for the future.
C.D. (Lyn) Anglin