CANADA FAILS TO ENSURE RIGHT TO A HEALTHY ENVIRONMENT
When a disaster happens, the world watches to see how governments react and tend to the needs of people who were harmed. Redressing harms, changing laws where needed, punishing those responsible, and trying to prevent future similar disasters are the measure of a government’s responsiveness. In the case of the Mount Polley mine disaster, Canada’s ongoing reluctance to hold those responsible to account, implement necessary regulatory changes, and see to peoples’ long-term health sends a terrible message that Canadian authorities aren’t willing to put people before mining profit.
On August 4, 2014, the Mount Polley gold and copper mine in central British Columbia failed, releasing over 25 million cubic metres of water, toxic materials and mine waste water into Quesnel Lake, a pristine fjord lake and home to wild salmon and other species. The tailings pond breach, in the heart of the Secwepemc Nation’s traditional territory, is considered one of Canada’s largest environmental mining disasters. The company has never been fined, charged or sanctioned. In fact, it has enjoyed tax breaks, new mine permits, and amendments to its water discharge permit which allows it to dump mine waste water into Quesnel Lake.
The tailings from the disaster sit at the bottom of the lake near the mouth of Hazeltine Creek. Scientists have revealed that, as a result of the disaster, lake water near the disaster site contains bacteria and metals not found in other parts of the lake. Many residents are still afraid to eat fish and drink water from the area.