25,000,000 cubic meters
of tailings spilled into Quesnel Lake
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The worst mining disaster in British Columbia’s history
On August 4, 2014, a section of the Mount Polley copper mine tailing pond collapsed, releasing 25 million cubic metres of mine tailings and waste water into pristine Quesnel Lake in central British Columbia. As a result, parts of the crystal clear lake filled with thick, grey mining sludge. Recent peer-reviewed scientific studies show that the area of Quesnel Lake where the tailings were deposited shows higher levels of bacteria and metals, such as copper.
For Indigenous peoples in the area and downstream who rely on healthy waters for food and cultural practices, the tailings breach was devastating. The company responsible for the mine, Imperial Metals, has not been fined, charged or sanctioned for the disaster.
Read our report on the human rights impact of the Mount Polley mine disaster.
UN reminds Canada of its human rights obligations
In June, 2018, the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights called on Canada to bring those responsible for the disaster to justice. Read the UN WG on BHR recommendations >>>here>>>.
In September, 2017 CERD made a number of recommendations to Canada about the Mount Polley disaster. So far, Canada has failed to act in any meaningful way to address the harms people suffered.
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.