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.
FOLLOW AMNESTY-BUSINESS & HUMAN RIGHTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA OR JOIN OUR EMAIL LIST
Over 25, 000 Canadians have signed the petition - will you?
SumOfUs has launched a petition calling on the Prime Minister to hold Imperial Metals to account for the Mt Polley disaster. Please sign the petition and send tweets to the Prime Minister, and Ministers of Environment, Fisheries and Oceans, and Justice. Find our sample tweets here.
Update: On March 27, the Federal Crown successfully stayed the 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 Crown argued the charges should be stayed because they believed there to be insufficient evidence from MiningWatch to warrant charges at this time and argued they must wait for the completion of an ongoing criminal investigation by Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans, and the B.C. Conservation Officer Service.
MiningWatch Canada said that the Crown should have let them present all of their evidence to Court before moving to stay the case. They also questioned why allowing MiningWatch to present its evidence would imperil the ongoing investigation or the Crown's ability to proceed with its own charges later.
The Federal Crown did not indicate if or when it would lay charges for the biggest mining spill in Canada’s history.
Press 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.
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
Recommended reading about the Mt Polley disaster and BC's mining sector:
- 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