The City of Williams Lake is pressing urgency for a statutory decision maker to approve a short term water discharge permit for Mount Polley.
Mayor Walt Cobb says they are deeply concerned about the delay in providing a short term water discharge permit and the economic impact that it could have on the community.
“The Chamber of Commerce, the business community, the Cariboo Regional District wrote a letter as late as last Friday in support of this application,” he said.
“Some of my discussions has been with the Steelworkers Union; they’re concerned they’re guys are going be out of work. I’m leaving the environmental aspect of that up to the experts. Yes, there are some concerns about the long term but at this time we’re more concerned about the job losses and with copper prices and everything the way they are I would think that if they do have to shut down, they will probably be shut down for maybe over a year.”
Vice President of Corporate Affairs Steve Robertson says under their current restricted permit operation, they would be required to cease operations if their current tailings storage facility-Springer Pit-reaches its threshold.
“I am very sympathetic to the concerns that Mayor Cobb has about the lack of issuing a permit at Mt Polley,” Robertson said.
“There are currently 266 people employed and we are building that workforce up closer to the levels that we had prior to the 2014 breach. Without that discharge permit, we are almost assuredly onto a path having that much more water causing us to shut down.”
The pit, which has a water level of 1030 meters is approximately 6 meters from reaching that point and also potentially exfiltrating into Boot Jack Lake and groundwater.
Robertson says modeling, however, shows that level will not be reached until spring.
“We’ve done a lot of modeling that shows that the precipitation is falling-assuming that it falls over the winter as snowfall will come at us at freshet and at that point the level in Springer Pit would get up to 1030 meters above sea level,” he said.
“That’s critical because it’s the level we’ve anticipated that it would start to exfiltrate out of the pit and into groundwater.”
Robertson goes on to say that the water in Springer Pit is good clean quality-good enough that they could discharge directly to the environment without doing any treatment despite them having already built a water treatment plant.
A decision by a statutory maker on Mt Polley’s short term water discharge permit which would discharge treated mine contact water from pipes within Hazeltine Creek into Quesnel Lake is not expected until the end of this month according to the Ministry of Environment.
(With Files from Pat Matthews)