Mining and Human Rights in BC: Mt Polley disaster
The Mt 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 impacts and damages caused by this major breach are still being assessed nearly three years later.
Amnesty International travelled to the region to research the human rights impact of the breach. We met with First Nations, local residents and businesses, government officials, scientists, and the union that represents the mine's workers. Neither Imperial Metals or Mount Polley Mining Corporation have responded to our requests for a meeting.
Amnesty is concerned that people's human rights may have been violated by the Mt Polley spill and that they continue to suffer harms.
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On May 25, 2017, Amnesty International Canada published the results of its investigation into human rights harms caused by the disasterous 2014 Mount Polley tailings pond breach. Our report documents impacts on the rights of Indigenous peoples to hunt, fish, pick medicines and berries, and engage in cultural practices within their traditional territories. It outlines concerns raised by community groups regarding access to meaningful information, water testing and monitoring, and role of the Province in ensuring compliance with and enforcement of BC's mining regulations. And it makes recommendations to the Province to restore public confidence, carry out reforms of BC's mining regulations in order to bring them in line with Canada's international human rights obligations, and to ensure robust monitoring of the medium and long-term impacts of the Mount Polley disaster on the environment and peoples' health.
Amnesty International is calling on the Province to hold a public inquiry into BC's mining regulation. Will you join us?
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.
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.
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
- BC Government website on the Mount Polley Mine disaster (technical information as well as formal reports)
- Office of the Auditor General of British Columbia report: An Audit of the Compliance and Enforcement of the Mining Sector
- BC's Information and Privacy Commissioner: Review of the Mount Polley Tailings Pond Failure and Public Interest Disclosure by Public Bodies
- Union of BC Indian Chiefs report on Financial Risk in BC's mining industry: Toward Financial Responsibility in British Columbia's Mining Industry
- First Nations Health Authority: Mount Polley Health Impact Assessment
- BC First Nations Energy and Mining Report: Uncertainty Upstream: Potential Threats from Tailings Facility Failures in Northern BC
- Huffpost Op-Ed: Xat'sull First Nation: All is Not Well 2 Years After Mount Polley Mine Disaster
- West Coast Environmental Law: Modernizing BC's Free-Entry Mining Laws for a Vibrant, Sustainable Mining Sector
- Fair Mining Collaborative: The Path to Zero Failures; Health, Safety and Reclamation Code Review
- MiningWatch Canada private prosecution for the Mount Polley tailings pond failure: Mount Polley on Trial website
- Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake blog
- Imperial Metals Mount Polley webpage