Protesters pressure industry and government following tailings pond disaster

Intro

Following the tailings pond breach in Mount Polley last week, protesters took to the streets of Vancouver calling on Imperial Metals and government officials to take responsibility for their role in the spill that poisoned the region’s water supply. Since the disaster, many are raising eyebrows over financial ties between Imperial Metals and political parties. First Nations leaders also drew parallels between Canada’s fossil fuel industry and the Mount Polley disaster, accusing the federal government of failing to keep communities safe from tailings that are “destroying the land, just like they are in Alberta in the tar sands.” In the past, engineers working on the tailings pond containment system had warned Imperial Metals that it was holding too much volume. Among other allegations, critics are citing changes to Canada’s Navigable Waters Protection Act this past year, which removed protection for over 99 per cent of the country’s lakes and rivers. Cleanup efforts are estimated to cost close to $200 million in damages, and experts are calling the dam breach one of the worst in the world.

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RT @VanObserver #FirstNation leaders protest Imperial Metals and company’s ties with government http://bit.ly/tpmarch   #MountPolley

Key Points

  • The impact of this disaster puts millions of people in harm’s way. The disaster occurred on a river basin that connects to 63 per cent of British Columbia’s population, and puts millions of people in proximity of toxins escaping from the leaking slurry. Reports of skin falling off local salmon since the spill have also been alarming for fishers and First Nations in the region who depend on the Fraser River for half their winter supply.
  • The warnings were there but ignored. The province’s Ministry of Environment issued Imperial Metals with five warnings this past May for exceeding the permitted height in tailings pond wastewater. In the past, engineers working on the containment system had also warned Imperial Metals that it was not designed to hold that much volume.
  • Whether it’s tar sands or mining industries, poorly regulated tailponds are destroying the land. By loosening water protection throughout the country, the federal government enables poisonous wastewater to continue penetrating the landscape and insufficiently safeguards communities from the health, safety and financial burdens that accompany large-scale environmental impacts.

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