Letter to Editor- William Lake Tribune
One of our very own members, Doug Watts shared his thoughts with the Wiiliams lake Tribune on May 2019,
Great job Doug, Thanks for your support.
May 13, 2019 An Open Letter to the BC Government Imperial Metals Corp. (IMC) and Mount Polley Mine (MPMC) have announced that MPMC is shutting down operations for an indefinite time period, which is certainly unfortunate for the employees, suppliers and the Cariboo economy in general. Following the dam breach, and with mine operations returned to full operations following the new permit approved on April 7, 2017, many outstanding questions and concerns remain about how we ended up in this present situation, and particularly in regard to what this closure will mean to the once pristine environment in and around Quesnel Lake. The mine’s permit was approved based on a 4-5 year mine-life ending in 2022, but within weeks, Imperial Metals quietly posted a new expected mine-life extending to at least 2026, with probable reserves that would likely extend it for many years beyond that. Much of that ore reserve initially was contained within the flooded Springer Pit. The new mine operating plan included pumping out Springer Pit with the ore available for mine operation in 2018, which did not occur. Subsequently, MPMC has been operating from low-grade high-oxide ore stockpiles with the expected poor operating recovery rates. How did the mine end up in 2019 suddenly being uneconomic to operate? Was it planned by Imperial Metals to have Springer Pit ore unavailable as originally planned, possibly as a strategy to ensure they are in a poor economic condition, relative to the looming possibility of federal environment charges for the 2014 dam breach impacts to the environment? What happened to the $108 Million that Imperial Metals recently received for “damages arising out of the August 4, 2014 failure of the perimeter embankment” from the engineering companies? It obviously was not used to mitigate operational problems and thus ensure continued economic operation of the mine. With the 5-year dam breach anniversary and apparent prosecution time limit quickly approaching, it is likely that there are some heavy back-room negotiations under way between the federal crown council and the company lawyers. It would make a strong bargaining chip to be able to imply something like “if you hit us with a big fine, we will go bankrupt, and the mine-site will then become your responsibility”. This scenario obviously entails further continued peril to the environment in and around Quesnel Lake. Despite the promises made by MPMC in the 1990s that there would be no mine-water discharge from the mine-site, and particularly never into Quesnel Lake, the 2017 permit allowed MPMC to discharge basically untreated mine effluent directly into the depths of the west arm of Quesnel Lake. But, it also required that direct discharge by pipeline must be terminated by December 31, 2022, and replaced by an alternative distributed discharge with biological treatment systems. This required that a fairly rigorous research program be initiated immediately upon permit approval, but within 30 days, MPMC was out-of-compliance with the permit, and has had more than a dozen continuing non-compliance issues right up to the present. In addition, when MPMC finds 2 something inconvenient, they apply for and almost invariably receive permit amendments that reduce the previously somewhat rigorous environmental oversight requirements, which not surprisingly, has also reduced the monitoring and protection of the environment. Unfortunately the Ministry of Environment regulators have been very supportive of these reduced oversight requests, such as on October 2, 2018, the MoE and MPMC, secretly and with deliberate subterfuge, approved an amendment with no public consultation, that reduced Quesnel Lake sampling and monitoring frequency from a weekly/monthly basis, to only 4 times a year. These monitoring times are now determined by the mine, and are only required to be 1 month apart. Coincidently (really?), on that same day, October 2, 2018, there was an on-site Public Liaison Committee meeting at the mine-site. Both parties were directly asked about the ongoing discussions for the amendment request, and we were told that discussions were still underway. Yes, the same day! And then just imagine thereafter, the MoE then had the gall to claim that this was just a “minor” amendment that they considered did not require public consultation. And a Mount Polley staff member said, to quote: ”Oh sorry, we forgot to mention that to you…we are just human after all”. All balderdash!! So just what has been the intent of IMC and MPMC in the past, and going forward? From past performance, it is obvious that MPMC Standard Operating Practice is to ignore some of their legal permit obligations, likely with the goal to extend indefinitely the direct pipeline discharge into Quesnel Lake. This is born out not only by all the present delaying tactics, but also by the most recent MPMC Reclamation & Closure Plan (2017) that shows the conceptual closure plan in 2025+, with the pipelines into Quesnel Lake still in use (see attached excerpt from the report). Many local residents can see that the aquatic environment of Quesnel Lake is continuing to decline, with more instances of “green” water, slime growth on the shoreline rocks, changes in the insect biota and slimey growth in the river below Likely. Now, with the looming “Care & Maintenance” closure, the mine is requesting to further defer the test-work for the distributed discharge and biological treatment systems required to prepare for replacing the pipelines by December 31, 2022. It is impossible to trust or believe what IMC and MPMC say about future actions, as past experience has shown that they do not even try to be fully honest, open and forthright, working to minimize their social, environmental and legal responsibilities So do I think that MPMC should be granted another permit amendment to further reduce their responsibility to clean up the mess that they made? Absolutely not! The government and regulators must enforce the present permit deadline for stopping the discharge into Quesnel Lake no later than December 31, 2022. Sincerely, Doug Watt Likely, BC