UBC mine engineering professor Dirk Van Zyl (left) is introduced by Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett as one of three independent experts to investigate the cause of the Mount Polley tailings dam failure. Their report is due by Jan. 31.

Mount Polley spill may be left in place

Further tests will determine whether the metal-bearing sand will be removed or left where it is, Mines Minister Bill Bennett says

Further tests of mine tailings spilled down a creek bed from the Mount Polley mine will determine whether the metal-bearing sand will be removed or left where it is, Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said this week.

The first lab tests on sediment samples at the mouth of Hazeltine Creek showed that while the material that poured down to the creek mouth in Quesnel Lake isn’t a health hazard to humans, its iron and copper content are above federal and provincial standards for aquatic life.

Bennett said it’s encouraging that the first sediment results did not show presence of arsenic, mercury or cadmium, toxic elements found in mine rock or used in mine processing.

A comparison sample of compact sediment from the mouth of nearby Raft Creek, not affected by the Aug. 4 tailings pond breach, also tested above sediment quality guidelines for iron. The environment ministry says mineral deposits that attract mine development often have naturally occurring metal concentrations much higher than other areas.

“What we need to do is test those sediments to determine whether it’s better environmentally to leave them there or to try to collect them and get them out of the creek bed and get them out of the creek mouth in Quesnel Lake,” Bennett said. “Before you start dredging lake bottoms and trying to clean up the bottom of a creek bed to get the sand out, you’ve got to determine what the risk is first, and that’s the phase that we’re in right now.”

There are two priority jobs underway on the spill site. One is pumping down the level of Polley Lake, the smaller lake next to the mine site that received a surge of water and tailings that plugged the outlet with an elevated water level. The other is reconstructing the breached section of the dam to prevent rain from carrying more tailings from the pond.

Interior Health is reviewing water and sediment sample results and a long-term monitoring and remediation plan has been submitted by the mine operator, a division of Imperial Metals.

 

Just Posted

Prize winning Urban Bee Honey Farm generating a buzz

Urban Bee honoured at the Vancouver Island Business Awards

African rhythms, dance performance to help out Sierra Leone charity group

Feb. 23 show by Issamba ensemble a fundraiser for Victoria-Taiama Partnership

Excitement builds for first Victoria Folk ‘N Fiddle Festival in Sidney

First headliners announced, wide range of community friendly musical, cultural events planned

Over 100 take the Vancouver Island polar plunge

More than $25,000 raised for BC Special Olympics athletes

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

B.C. athlete takes home gold in freestyle aerials at Canada Games

Brayden Kuroda won the event with a combined score of 121.65.

Cabinet likely to extend deadline to reconsider Trans Mountain pipeline

New round of consultations with Indigenous communities is coming

B.C. government provides $75,000 towards salmon study

Study looks at abundance and health of Pacific salmon in Gulf of Alaska

UBC researchers develop inexpensive tool to test drinking water

The tricoder can test for biological contamination in real-time

Disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner released from prison

He was convicted of having illicit online contact with a 15-year-old North Carolina girl in 2017

B.C. communities push back against climate change damages campaign

Activists copying California case that was tossed out of court

Most Read