A new map released in Vancouver, British Columbia by the BC Mining Law Reform Network and SkeenaWild Conservation Trust identifies over 100 known and potentially contaminated mine waste sites that threaten to pollute fish habitat and communities across the province.
The map shows 173 coal and metal mines across British Columbia, including all major mines, plus historic mines where significant amounts of ore was extracted.
Representatives of both entities said they plan to be involved in the BC Mining Roundup Virtual Conference this week, especially on Thursday, Jan. 21, for the environmental and social governance’s best practices panel ( https://roundup.amebc.ca/) The event is hosted by the Association for Mineral Exploration (https://members.amebc.ca) which identifies as an industry organization advocating for responsible mineral exploration.
Among the mines identified is the Tulsequah Chief, which has been leaking acid mine drainage into the Taku watershed near the Alaska border for over 60 years, even though it has been closed for several decades. The watershed is part of the transboundary river system flowing into the salmon rich waters of Southeast Alaska.
The British Columbia remediation plan for the Tulsequah Chief, released in 2020 includes three options for controlling and addressing the water contamination issues. The estimated cost of the long-term remediation plan is close to $60 million, with annual costs of over $1 million, but according to the report the provincial government has only to date collected just over a $1 million reclamation bond for the Tulsequah Chief.
Another major example of ongoing mine water pollution in the report is the Mount Polley Mine, whose tailings pond collapsed on Aug. 4, 2014, spilling 24 million cubic meters of solid and liquid mine wastes into Hazeline Creek and Quesnel Lake, a source of drinking water and major spawning ground for sockeye salmon. Mine company officials said the mine wastes pose no threats, but according to the report the resuspension of spill related materials is occurring and causing prolonged exposure of aquatic ecosystems to contaminants. The report also says bacteria found around the tailings waste could be affecting fish.
Another noted example of ongoing mine water pollution is Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley Mine.
Scene of a disaster on Aug. 4, 2014, when a tailings pond collapsed, spilled 24 million cubic meters of solid and liquid mine wastes, contaminating major drinking water sources and spawning grounds for sockeye salmon. According to the report, mine owners are still permitted to release large amount of liquid mine wastes into these waters.