‘Heads need to roll’: Five years after Mount Polley mine disaster, prospect of charges stirs hope for justice
By Ainslie CruickshankStar Vancouver
Thursday, July 4, 2019, 4 min. read
VANCOUVER—It’s been almost five years since 25 million cubic metres of tainted water and debris poured into fish-bearing waters in British Columbia, and those who bore witness are cautiously optimistic that charges could finally be laid.
On Aug. 4, 2014 the tailings dam at Imperial Metal’s Mount Polley mine breached, and 10,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools of waste rushed into Polley Lake and Hazeltine Creek, flowing from there into Quesnel Lake. The area is about 100 km northeast of Williams Lake by road.
It was one of the largest mining disasters in Canadian history. The company has faced no charges so far.
“Heads need to roll over Mount Polley,” said Bev Sellars, a former chief of the Xat’sull First Nation, which was affected by the disaster.
“A message needs to be sent to all resource extractors that things have to change. I mean, we’re in dire straights here.”
Imperial Metals did not immediately respond to Star Vancouver’s request for comment.
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Four years since Mount Polley mine disaster and no charges
A joint federal and provincial task force has finished its investigation into the disaster. Now, the decision to lay charges is in the hands of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.
The prosecution service is facing an Aug. 4 deadline — exactly five years since the spill — to lay summary charges under the Fisheries Act.
“We’re cautiously hopeful that Imperial Metals will finally be held accountable for this disaster,” said Kai Nagata, energy and democracy director with the B.C. environmental organization Dogwood, in an email on Wednesday.
“Tens of thousands of British Columbians and people across Canada wrote letters and signed petitions to (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) and Minister (Jonathan) Wilkinson demanding that he not let the deadline expire.”
However, an Environment and Climate Change Canada spokesperson told Star Vancouver last year that there are no time limits to lay a more serious charge for an indictable offence.
SALMON BEYOND BORDERS is a campaign driven by sport and commercial fishermen, community leaders, tourism and recreation business owners and concerned citizens, in collaboration with Tribes and First Nations, united across the Alaska/British Columbia border to defend and sustain our transboundary rivers, jobs and way of life.
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