Mine sought second water release increase

Mount Polley Mine was awaiting a second permit amendment from the B.C. government to increase water release

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett

Mount Polley Mine management was awaiting a second permit amendment from the B.C. government to increase water released from its tailings facilities when the tailings pond dam breached in the early hours of Aug. 4.

Ministry of Environment records show the mine has had an effluent permit since 1997, and has operated since startup with a water surplus due to precipitation. In 2009 the company applied to amend the permit to allow discharge of up to 1.4 million cubic meters of water a year to discharge dam seepage effluent into Hazeltine Creek.

That permit was approved in 2012 after an independent report was commissioned to examine water quality impacts from sediment and contaminants, and measures needed to control them.

With the mine and its tailings facilities expanding and an exhausted pit being converted to underground mining, Mount Polley applied for another amendment to discharge up to three million cubic meters of treated water to Polley Lake.

“That application was received by the ministry this summer and is being considered,” the Ministry of Environment said in a statement Wednesday.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said Mount Polley mine does not have acid-producing rock, which reacts with contaminants such as arsenic and mercury and allows them to mix with water. Bennett was on site this week with mine inspectors and environment ministry staff.

“We will find out if the company was not in compliance,” Bennett said Wednesday. “If they were hiding anything, if they made mistakes in building the dam higher, we will find out and hold them to account.”

Brian Kynoch, president of parent company Imperial Metals, was asked about the latest permit amendment at a public meeting in Likely Tuesday, where residents were shocked at the devastation and worried about the water quality in their lakes and rivers.

“I think we’re about to get the increase,” Kynoch said.

Kynoch said the breach did not occur at the highest point of the tailings dam, where water pressure was greatest, and the pond level was 2.5 metres below the top of the dam at the time.

Ministry records show Mount Polley was warned about high pond levels May 24, with the level returning to authorized levels by June 30. In April the company was issued an advisory about bypass of authorized treatment works due to high water flows in the spring runoff period.

Samples of tailings pond water taken Aug. 4 showed selenium concentration 2.8 times the drinking water guideline. Concentration of nitrates, cadmium, copper, iron and selenium have occasionally exceeded aquatic life guidelines in recent years. The permit required water volume not to exceed 35 per cent of the creek flow to dilute it.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Hardy Bay Seniors’ Centre doubling down to build community during COVID-19

The volunteer-run group is cooking meals and checking in on isolated seniors

Three weekly direct flights from Port Hardy to Vancouver starting June 1

Direct between Bella Bella and Vancouver not resuming at this time

UPDATE: Local taxi company applying to opertate north island bus route

Waivin’ Flags Taxi wants to operate Route 5 between Cambpell River and Port Hardy

Change in service: Port Hardy is switching from bi-weekly garbage pick up to weekly schedule

The cost for the weekly garbage pick up service is an additional $30.12 annually.

Cancelling bus service between Campbell River and Port Hardy will compromise health access, region warns

Mount Waddington Health Network says transportation primary factor for rural health access

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

B.C. aquaculture farm’s employees sweat it out to raise funds for food banks

For every five minutes of exercise recorded, Cermaq Canada is donating a dollar to local food banks in communities they operate

Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Stepdad able to walk bride down the aisle days before he passes away

Ceremony held amidst pandemic in order to fulfill bride’s wish to have stepdad give her away

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

State of Local Emergency declared for Boundary as communities brace for river flooding

Warm weather and heavy rain could cause sections of Kettle River system to swell beyond 2018 levels

Most Read