Operations at Mt. Polley could be brought to a devastating halt as the mine continues to await approval for a short-term water permit to discharge treated water that has been in contact with the site into Quesnel Lake.
Springer Pit, which is currently being used to hold and collect freshet and rain as well tailings under the mine’s restricted operations permit, continues to fill at about one foot per day nearing the threshold of 1030 elevated meters to exfiltrate the pit walls into groundwater and Boot Jack Lake.
Mayor of Williams Lake, Walt Cobb says he’s very concerned and very upset that the permit should be delayed time and time again.
“I think this is the third delay and I understand the need for consultation but there comes a time where you need to make a decision. We’re to a point now where what happens now if we have some really wet weather and they’ve had some wet weather up there now,” he said.
“I understand we’re within seven meters, maybe under six and a half from reaching the peak where it’s going to start seeping and who’s going to be responsible?” Here again, we’ll blame the mine because there’s a breach when it’s actually like the last time when they were waiting 2 years for a permit and never got it. Is that what we’re waiting for?”
A statutory decision maker, independent of government officials according to Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett has to issue the permit.
“This is constantly the problem,” Cobb maintains.
“They’re not answerable to anybody and when the government of the day can’t even tell those decision makers what to do, or how to get things done, and I understand the consultation process, but how long does it have to go on?”
In a formal letter issued to Mt. Polley general manager Dale Reimer on July 9th, 2015, Chief Inspector of Mines, Al Hoffman states:
“Your proposal for a return to a restricted restart of operations formally submitted on March 20, 2015, approved subjected to permit conditions. The Mine Act Permit amendment does not authorize the use of the tailings storage facility (TSF) and any new use of the TSF for water or tailings storage will require approval by the Chief Inspector of Mines.”
“The Amendment also requires the Springer Pit Lake be maintained below an elevation of 1030 m above sea level. Should this elevation be reached, operations must cease.”
A source who spoke on condition of anonymity says the water level at Springer Pit as of Monday was at 1023.6 meters.
In a former interview with MY CARIBOO NOW, Vice President of Corporate Affairs Steve Robertson says whether Mt. Polley is granted a permit to resume full operations or not, the Ministry of Environment requires all mines across the province to collect and store any water that has been in contact with the mine site.
“An application for the short-term discharge (no more than 2 yrs) of treated mine effluent to Quesnel Lake has gone through public consultation and is under review by the ministry and other agencies,” Robertson said.
“A final decision is expected in November,” said David Karn, Media Relations with the Ministry of Environment in an email Tuesday.
The installation of an approximate $2-million water treatment plant by Imperial Metals was completed about two weeks ago-with initial anticipation of having received the permit on Oct. 15, then Oct. 31, and finally Nov. 15.
A Ministry of Energy and Mines Act known as M200 Clause could also potentially shutter production at Mt. Polley due to the unauthorized discharge of effluent.
Mt. Polley applied for the short-term water discharge permit on July 16, 2015.
Officials from the Ministry of Environment were scheduled to meet with consultants from the Soda Creek Indian Band-Xats’ull First Nation on Nov. 16.