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Mining and Human Rights in BC: Mt Polley disaster

    The Mount Polley gold and copper mine is owned by Canadian company Imperial Metals and located near the community of Likely in British Columbia's Cariboo region. On August 4th, 2014, the mine's tailings dam breached, spilling 24 million cubic metres of toxic mine waste into local waterways and ultimately into the pristine Quesnel Lake. The full extent of the damage to human rights and the environment is still unfolding. No one has been fined or charged for the disaster. 

    Amnesty is concerned that people's human rights may have been violated by the Mount Polley spill and that they continue to suffer harms. 



    Canada: 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Mount Polley Mine Disaster

    Canadians know: its been more than three years since the Mount Polley mine's tailings dam broke, pouring millions of cubic metres of mine waste into pristine Quesnel Lake.  Amnesty International is marking the 10th anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and three years of tireless campaigning by people affected by the Mount Polley mine disaster to ask the question: Where is the justice, Mr. Prime Minister?

    Read our international blog on the 10th anniversary of the UNDRIP: Canada: Mount Polley Disaster in British Columbia and its Impact on Indigenous Peoples' Rights

    Take action by signing our online letter to Prime Minister Trudeau

    Read our report: A Breach of Human Rights: The Human Rights Impacts of the Mount Polley Mine Disaster, British Columbia, Canada

    Action File Update: 

    We took action in Canada

    After we published our findings, thousands of Amnesty International activists called on the Province of British Columbia to hold a public inquiry into BC's mining regulations in order to bring them in line with Canada's international human rights and domestic obligations. Thank you for taking action! We will continue to press the BC Government to reform the province's mining laws and to implement the BC Auditor General's 2016 recommendations

    We took action at the United Nations 

    In August, 2017, Amnesty Interantional Canada added our voice to the calls for justice for the Mount Polley mine disaster by making two submissions to the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. We noted the disproportionate and discriminatory impacts of the disaster on Indigenous peoples and called for Canada to release studies on the health impacts of the disaster on the health and food security of those affected.

    In its concluding observations, the CERD noted that "...the mining disaster has resulted in a disproportionate and devastating impact on the water quality, food such as fish, fish habitats, traditional medicines and the health of Indigenous peoples in the area". It went on to call on Canada to publicly release the results of any government studies into the disaster and the ongoing criminal investigation, and to monitor and provide remedy for the people harmed by the disaster. In an unusual move, it called on Canada to report back within one year information on the implementation of its recommendations and in particular, noted the importance of incorporating free, prior and informed consent in decision-making and approvals of large-scale resource development projects. 

    We will continue to press Canada to comply with CERD's recommendations. You can help by signing our on-line action or by speaking directly to your BC MLA or MP

    More ways you can take action here!


    Amnesty International invites UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights to meet with rights-holders regarding Mount Polley disaster

    On May 28th, during its official country visit to Canada, the UNWG met with people directly affected by the Mount Polley mine disaster. Corporate accountability experts Surya Deva and Anita Ramasastry heard testimony from Chiefs, leaders and community members of the Secwepemc, St'at'imc, Tsilqot'in, and Dakelh Nations and from residents belonging to community organisations such as the Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake and the Quesnel River Watershed Alliance. One June 1, the UNWG issued a Statement to the Government of Canada regarding the state of corporate accountability in the country. It urged Canada to take a 'tougher stance' on The WG will issue its official report to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2018. 

    Read the reflections shared by the Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake on giving testimony to the UNWG.  

    Article in the Williams Lake Tribune on the UNWG visit by Greg Sabatino


    A number of lawsuits were launched in 2016 seeking a legal remedy for harms alleged to have occurred as a result of the Mount Polley mine disaster. Read a summary of the lawsuits, case by case, by Amnesty International Canada's Business and Human Rights Co-group volunteer and legal expert, Olivia Howard. 


    Read more.....

    Legal news: On March 27, the Federal Crown successfully stayed charges brought forward by Canadian NGO MiningWatch Canada against the Province of British Columbia and Mount Polley Mining Corporation for violations of the Fisheries Act. The Federal Crown did not indicate if or when it would lay charges for the biggest mining spill in Canada’s history. News Release: Over 25,000 Canadians call for justice for those harmed by the Mount Polley mining spill. Nearly three years on, no one has been held accountable. SumOfUs petition. Find our sample tweets here

    Call for Public Inquiry Launched: Today, the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre and Fair Mining Collaborative launched a formal request for the province to establish a Judicial Commission of Public Inquiry into BC’s mining regulations. The Centre's report, Fixing Systemic Failures in BC's Mining Regulation: the Urgent Need for A Judicial Inquiry, outlines the dysfunction of BC's mining regulatory system and need for reform. 

    Announcement: Province announces changes to BC's mining regulations and oversight: Read the government press release and an article by Vancouver Sun reporter Gordon Hoestra.

    Blog: A Water Defender working to protect the lake she loves shares her thoughts on Quesnel Lake in the winter

    News release: Private prosecution filed against BC Government and Mt Polley: press release

    Amnesty op-ed in the Tyee: Where's the Will to Protect British Columbians' Rights After Resource Disasters? 

    Second anniversary of Mt Polley spill: Canadians Remember

    First anniversary of Mt Polley spill: One year anniversary of Mt Polley

    2015 Research Mission

    July 23 Blog posting : Day 4 - Amnesty on the ground

    July 21 Blog posting : Day 1 - Amnesty on the ground 

    Recommended reading.....


    Indigenous organizations:

    Non-governmental organizations: 


    • Imperial Metals Mount Polley webpage