Mount Polley Mining Corporation has been granted permission to drain treated mining waste water into Quesnel Lake, a massive glacial lake that provides drinking water to residents of Likely B.C., northeast of Williams Lake.
Approval of the long-term waste water management plan came April 7, despite a disaster that put the water at risk in 2014 and a provincial investigation into the spill that is not yet complete. “The timing is absolutely surprising,” said Ugo Lapointe of Mining Watch Canada, who pointed out the news release came on a Friday afternoon before the launching of the B.C. election.
Quesnel Lake, famed for trophy-sized rainbow trout, is feared at risk by locals who describe it as the deepest fjord lake on earth, and who protest any dump of mining waste, treated or otherwise, which can carry toxic elements and heavy metals such as arsenic and lead or zinc.
“It’s hard not to be cynical,” said Lapointe who said locals opposing the plan felt ignored.
But Environment Minister Mary Polak told CBC the decision was made by neutral civil servants based on science that confirmed draining treated water into the river, as opposed to the lake, was riskier.
“These decisions do not cross any politicians desk. In fact if I was to interfere with the decision I could be in some very serious legal trouble,” Polak told CBC.
“That is one of the ways we ensure that there is never any influence by companies that might donate to political parties.” A spokesperson for Mount Polley mine and for Imperial Metals says fears of water quality are overblown.
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