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Imperial Metals, Mount Polley Mine, BC, Canada


On August 4, 2014, the retaining dam at the mine's tailings storage facility collapsed, and over 25 million cubic metres of mine tailings and contaminated water poured into Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake, part of the Fraser River system, one of the most important salmon rivers in the world. No-one was hurt, but Hazeltine Creek was washed out, and trees and debris washed into Quesnel Lake along with the contaminated material. The effects on water quality and fish is still unknown, and local tourism businesses as well as Indigenous subsistence fisheries have been severely affected.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Imperial Metals, Mount Polley Mine, BC, Canada
State or province:British Columbia
Location of conflict:Likely
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Tailings from mines
Specific commodities:Copper
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The mine produced about 40,000,000 pounds of copper and 50,000 ounces of gold annually

Project area:500
Level of Investment for the conflictive project400,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:20,000
Start of the conflict:04/05/2014
Company names or state enterprises:Imperial Metals Corporation (IM) from Canada
Relevant government actors:British Columbia Ministry of Mines
Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Fair Mining Collaborative
MiningWatch Canada
Secwepemc Women's Warrior Society
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Recreational users
Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Mine tailing spills, Other Environmental impacts
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Institutional changes
Project temporarily suspended
Proposal and development of alternatives:1. Clean-up and remediation of the spill area. Whether the mine can return to operation has not been established.
2. Independent, public, in-depth technical reassessment of tailings facilities at existing mines, those currently being proposed, and any new proposals, based on much more stringent criteria.
3. Improved Environmental Assessment process to allow more thorough evaluation of technical aspects as well as public and Indigenous involvement.
4. Enhanced regulation and monitoring of mines.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The full range and extent of impacts to Quesnel Lake and downstream into the Fraser River, to the ecosystem and the economies and cultures that depend on them, are still unknown. There has been no real clean-up yet, and perhaps most importantly it remains to be seen whether deep systemic changes will be made to prevent repeat occurrences - to mining practice, regulation, and monitoring in BC and across the board.
Sources & Materials

Mount Polley Review Panel Delivers Final Report - January 30, 2015

The Mount Polley Independent Expert Engineering Investigation and Review Panel (the Panel) today delivered a Final Report on its investigation into the cause of the failure of the tailings storage facility at the Mount Polley Mine on August 4, 2014. The report was delivered to the Ministry of Energy and Mines, the T’exelc First Nation (Williams Lake Indian Band) and the Xat’sull First Nation (Soda Creek Indian Band). The report also contains recommendations on actions that can be taken to ensure a similar failure does not occur at other mine sites in B.C.
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Mount Polley and the Failure of Compliance - Ramsey Hart, MiningWatch Canada, October 21, 2014
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Catastrophic Tailings Spill at Mount Polley Mine - Ramsey Hart, MiningWatch Canada, August 08, 2014
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Some facts about the Mount Polley Mine - Bernard von Schulmann | August 6, 2014
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Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Video: Helicopter Fly Over by Cariboo Regional District (37 min)
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Meta information
Contributor:Mining Watch Canada
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:1852
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