Mount Polley Disaster
In the early morning hours of August 4, BC Day, a catastrophic breach of Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley tailings pond sent a slurry-like mixture of 10 million cubic metres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of fine sediment into Polley Lake. Hazeltine Creek and into Quesnel Lake. The breach has endangered not only drinking water for residents but the Quesnel, Horsefly and Mitchell salmon runs.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, responded “Like the Exxon Valdez, Mount Polley will be synonymous with one of the most disastrous environmental events in British Columbia. The frightening fact is both environmental disasters could have been prevented if there was vigorous government oversight by an effectively resourced agency bound by robust legislative and regulatory environmental safeguards. What we have now in BC and Canada, , as a consequence of weak environmental review procedures and the federal omnibus bills C-38 and C-45, are repugnant and reprehensible processes of rubber-stamp approvals that shamelessly pander to industry and tragically at the great expense of environmental devastation.”
Chief Bob Chamberlin, Vice-President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs stated Wild salmon is one of the greatest life-giving gifts of the Fraser watershed. First Nations throughout the Interior and along Coastal BC rely on the wild salmon runs of the Fraser for food, social, ceremonial and commercial fisheries. As of last night, Department of Fisheries and Oceans has banned salmon fishing in the Cariboo and Quesnel Rivers due to Mount Polley. Mount Polley will have an immediate and devastating effect on First Nations like Lhtako Dene, Lhoosk’uz Dene, Nazko and ?Esdilagh who may not be able to fish for salmon at all this year. First Nations are anxiously awaiting the water-test results, the possible DFO closures afterwards and the harmful impacts on future salmon runs of the Fraser.”
Chief Judy Wilson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs declared “The wholesale erosion of BC environmental protections represents the government’s dismissal of our Title, Rights and Treaty Rights. Our right to fish is meaningless if the fish are contaminated with or killed by arsenic, lead or mercury. Our right to hunt is pointless if the moose or deer show concentrations of selenium or cadmium. Mount Polley is why the UBCIC fully supported the Tsilhqot’in and Secwepemc as they opposed Taseko’s Prosperity Mine proposals. The UBCIC will follow the lead and will stand with First Nations impacted by Mount Polley.”
This article is a press release from the UBCIC.