Canada has one of the worst records on the planet for making polluters like Imperial Metals pay. By Carol Linnitt.
The company responsible for the Mount Polley mine spill—one of the largest environmental disasters in Canadian history—has found out it’s not going to face any charges in British Columbia.
The news likely has billionaire Murray Edwards, owner of Imperial Metals and the Mount Polley mine (and the Calgary Flames) toasting with his rich friends in London (where he lives to avoid paying taxes).
If you’re not in BC, there’s a chance the aerial images of the disaster haven’t already scarred you forever. This is what the collapsed tailings pond at the Mount Polley mine looked like in August 2014.
The resulting spill was so enormous it lasted for 12 hours and, according to those who lived nearby, sounded as loud as a jet plane flying low overhead.
The force of the 24 million cubic metres of mine waste, containing mercury, arsenic, selenium, copper, and other heavy metals, scoured the former Hazeltine Creek, tearing a 150-metre strip of forest clean from its roots.
Although a superficial cleanup of the creekbed has since taken place, the contaminated mine waste that entered Quesnel Lake—the source of drinking water for residents of Likely, BC, and home to about a quarter of the province’s sockeye salmon population—remains there to this day.
And while researchers studying the effects of the contamination on the lake and its fish say they need a few more years before they’ll fully understand the spill’s long-term impacts, the deadline for criminal charges to be laid under BC’s laws has already come and gone.
The door closed once and for all last week when the BC Prosecution Service announced it was staying charges filed against the company by Bev Sellars, the former chief of the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation in whose territory the spill occurred.
Back in August when Sellars realized the province wasn’t going to lift a finger to hold the company responsible for the spill, she decided she’d do it her own damn self and filed a private prosecution.
But after reviewing her case, which claimed Mount Polley violated 15 laws under BC’s Environmental Management and Mining Acts, prosecutors decided against seeking charges. “The two reasons they gave for quashing the case was that it’s not in the public’s interest and they needed more evidence,” Sellars told VICE. “I was shocked. I don’t understand how they can say there wasn’t enough evidence,” Sellars said.
“Anyone can go out there or look online and see there was a spill.” “This is setting a dangerous precedent.” The BC Prosecution Service told VICE an investigation by the BC Conservation Service Office is ongoing but declined to comment further.