MiningWatch Canada has filed a lawsuit against the British Columbia government and Mount Polley Mining Corp. for alleged violations of Canada’s Fisheries Act in connection with the 2014 tailings dam disaster, the largest in Canada’s history.
Mining Watch’s Ugo Lapointe said the organization was acting because almost two and a half years after the disaster, the Crown has failed to lay charges and enforce the Fisheries Act, despite what they see as ample evidence of the impact on waters, fish and fish habitat when the tailings pond failed to hold.
The collapse of the Mount Polley tailings dam sent 25 million cubic meters of wastewater and mine waste solids into downstream waters, destroying or permanently affecting aquatic and riparian habitats. The copper and gold mine in the central interior of British Columbia stored its tailings in a tailings storage facility that failed on an evening in early August of 2014, releasing the debris, which flowed into Hazletine Creek, scouring the channel and floodplain and flowing upstream to Polley Lake and downstream to Quesnel Lake.
A study of the impact assessment of the spill on fish and fish habitat released in 2015 indicated at affected waters included at least 20 different fish species, including sockeye, coho and Chinook salmon. The report estimated that an extensive area of aquatic habitat was permanently altered.
While MiningWatch has a legal team ready to take the case to trial, the organization is also asking Canada’s federal government to carry the prosecution forward.
Lapointe said that if that nation’s environmental waters are to be fully protected, that can only happen when the government uses all means at its disposal to stand against violations of the Fisheries Act. The next step will be a process hearing in the provincial court in Williams Lake, BC in a few weeks.