Mount Polley Mine reopens

Tailings pond use not part of conditional approvals

Local governments, MLAs, Mount Polley Mine employees and families and a host of others are cheering the planned restart of the mine.

British Columbia’s Energy and Mines and Environment ministries have conditionally authorized the Mount Polley Mine Corporation to begin restricted operations.

Now that ministry staff have amended the related Mines Act permits, the company estimates it will take about 30 days before it can begin limited production under the restricted operations, which will bring back jobs for up to 220 workers.

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett is among the many MLAs saying this is good news for the communities that depend on the mine as a key economic generator.

“A lot of hard work has gone into getting to this stage with local leaders, First Nations, the company and the union all having a part in getting to where we are.

“But this is only the first step – there’s a lot of work ahead and we must be vigilant to make sure the highest standards are being met.”

This reopening shows it is possible to have a resource economy and respect the environment, both of which are vital to the region, Barnett adds.

“I am very pleased. I know how hard the [various ministries’] staff worked on the issue and in working with Imperial Metals, First Nations and the union.

“This is a short-term authorization for four to five months while they do their long-term plan and there are many conditions [in the permit].

“The first is the environment. We are very cognizant of what happened; we do not want it to ever happen anywhere again.”

She explains the company must meet all the obligations laid out in the permit, as monitored through on-site inspections and weekly reporting.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett says for operations to continue, the company will need a second conditional permit in the early fall to treat and discharge water, and it must also submit a long-term water treatment and discharge plan to government by June 30, 2016.

The mine will not be authorized to continue to operate long-term if it fails to complete either of these two steps, he explains.

The amended permit authorizes the company to operate at roughly half the rate of normal operations, but the tailings facility will not be utilized.

Mount Polley Mine will use Springer Pit, an existing open pit on the mine site, to manage the tailings.

Water use restrictions have been in place and impacting area residents since the Mount Polley tailings pond breach in August 2014.

Now, Interior Health (IH) has lifted the remaining Do Not Use order and water use restrictions as of July 13 for residents in the defined “impact zone.”

An IH release states this decision is based on the results of ongoing review of various water, sediment and fish toxicology sampling by the environment ministry that continue to show there are no known risks to human health.

Water drawn from Polley Lake and Hazeltine Creek may now be consumed and used for recreational purposes.

However, any residents using untreated surface water are advised to follow safe drinking water guidelines for filters and disinfection, or boil all water before drinking or using for washing produce.

Affected area residents may contact IH at 1-888-702-7771 for more information.