Mine sought second water release increase

Mount Polley Mine was awaiting a second permit amendment from the B.C. government to increase water release

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett

Mount Polley Mine management was awaiting a second permit amendment from the B.C. government to increase water released from its tailings facilities when the tailings pond dam breached in the early hours of Aug. 4.

Ministry of Environment records show the mine has had an effluent permit since 1997, and has operated since startup with a water surplus due to precipitation. In 2009 the company applied to amend the permit to allow discharge of up to 1.4 million cubic meters of water a year to discharge dam seepage effluent into Hazeltine Creek.

That permit was approved in 2012 after an independent report was commissioned to examine water quality impacts from sediment and contaminants, and measures needed to control them.

With the mine and its tailings facilities expanding and an exhausted pit being converted to underground mining, Mount Polley applied for another amendment to discharge up to three million cubic meters of treated water to Polley Lake.

“That application was received by the ministry this summer and is being considered,” the Ministry of Environment said in a statement Wednesday.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said Mount Polley mine does not have acid-producing rock, which reacts with contaminants such as arsenic and mercury and allows them to mix with water. Bennett was on site this week with mine inspectors and environment ministry staff.

“We will find out if the company was not in compliance,” Bennett said Wednesday. “If they were hiding anything, if they made mistakes in building the dam higher, we will find out and hold them to account.”

Brian Kynoch, president of parent company Imperial Metals, was asked about the latest permit amendment at a public meeting in Likely Tuesday, where residents were shocked at the devastation and worried about the water quality in their lakes and rivers.

“I think we’re about to get the increase,” Kynoch said.

Kynoch said the breach did not occur at the highest point of the tailings dam, where water pressure was greatest, and the pond level was 2.5 metres below the top of the dam at the time.

Ministry records show Mount Polley was warned about high pond levels May 24, with the level returning to authorized levels by June 30. In April the company was issued an advisory about bypass of authorized treatment works due to high water flows in the spring runoff period.

Samples of tailings pond water taken Aug. 4 showed selenium concentration 2.8 times the drinking water guideline. Concentration of nitrates, cadmium, copper, iron and selenium have occasionally exceeded aquatic life guidelines in recent years. The permit required water volume not to exceed 35 per cent of the creek flow to dilute it.

 

Just Posted

Tsunami warning an ‘exercise in precaution’

Warning for Greater Victoria called off shortly before 5 a.m. Tuesday

Vic-Alert faces tidal wave of registration after tsunami warnings

City of Victoria system is free and provides early warnings of disaster

Langford, Royal Roads partner to keep talent on the West Shore

MOU will target talent creation, retention and attraction with official partnership

Sirens don’t sing in tsunami warning for Esquimalt

Officials pleased with process, say sirens would have been activated had threat escalated.

Support growing for palliative care facility on the West Shore

Dave Saunders says facilities ‘bursting at the seams’

WATCH: Greater Victoria residents gather at higher ground during tsunami warning

Ocean Boulevard and the Esquimalt Lagoon reopened shortly before 5 a.m. Tuesday

How high is safe from a tsunami? Four metres above sea level

Be disaster ready with food, water and clothing for seven days

Victoria Film Festival set for triumphant return to the big screen

Two decades on, diverse film lineups keep movie-goers coming to the box office

Andrew Scheer on trade, Trump and Trudeau

Canada’s Conservative leader begins three-day visit to B.C.

Victoria’s most wanted for the week of Jan. 23

Crime Stoppers will pay a reward of up to $2,000 for information that leads to arrests or the seizure of property or drug

Victims restrained, sex toys and cash stolen from B.C. adult store

Armed suspects sought in adult store robbery

Babcock, Goyette and Smyth honoured at Order of Hockey in Canada

Mike Babcock, from Saskatoon, guided the Detroit Red Wings to a Stanley Cup in 2008

Bell Canada alert prompts RCMP, privacy watchdog to probe data breach

Company spokesman: ‘Fewer than 100,000 customers were affected’

Most Read