Following the tailings pond breach in Mount Polley, Canada last week, protesters took to the streets of Vancouver calling on Imperial Metals and government officials to take responsibility for their role in the spill that poisoned the region’s water supply.
The disaster occurred on a river basin that connects to 63 per cent of British Columbia’s population, and puts millions of people in proximity of toxins escaping from the leaking slurry.
Reports of skin falling off local salmon since the spill have also been alarming for fishers and First Nations in the region who depend on the Fraser River for half their winter supply.
Since the spill, many are raising eyebrows over financial ties between Imperial Metals and political parties.
First Nations leaders also drew parallels between Canada’s fossil fuel industry and the Mount Polley disaster, accusing the federal government of failing to keep communities safe from tailings that are “destroying the land, just like they are in Alberta in the tar sands.”
“A tailings pond cannot hold in the toxic chemicals that are being put out by this mine from entering the ecosystem,” said Chief Mike Retasket, from the Shuswap Nation, whose home is located 40 kilometres from the tailings breach site.
In the past, engineers working on the tailings pond containment system had warned Imperial Metals that it was holding too much volume. Among other allegations, critics are citing changes to Canada’s Navigable Waters Protection Act this past year, which removed protection for over 99 percent of the country’s lakes and rivers.
Cleanup efforts are estimated to cost close to $200 million in damages, and experts are calling the dam breach one of the worst in the world.