TUESDAY MORNING EDITORIAL — It didn’t take long after Monday’s news from the Mount Polley Mine for speculation to start about the possible consequences of a breach in the Ajax tailings pond.
The breach at Mount Polley Mine occurred in the early morning hours Monday, sending a torrent of water down adjacent streams toward Quesnel Lake and other bodies of water. At this writing, authorities have slapped a complete ban on the use of possibly contaminated water, including for bathing, and are scrambling to assess the total impact of the break in the tailing’s pond’s dike.
“Is this what a mine tailings pond breach would like like at #Ajax Mine?” asked one tweet.
And, certainly, many will be envisioning the possible consequences of a similar scenario at Ajax should the mine go ahead — KGHM International’s new site plan for the mine switched a dry tailings stack to a wet tailings pond.
That pond, as shown on an artist’s rendering, is dammed on its northern edge from Peterson Creek. The change is one of the concerns that led to successful demands for a new public comment period on Ajax.
Questions will now, no doubt, be asked about the potential for a Mount Polley-style breach that would send contaminated contents of the Ajax tailings pond into Peterson Creek and through downtown to the South Thompson River.
While the mouth of Peterson Creek is downstream from the City’s drinking-water intake, it’s upstream from Riverside Park and many communities along the Thompson River system.
Whether there are any relevant or fair grounds for comparisons with the disturbing situation in the Cariboo remains to be seen, but the new public comment period — assuming the B.C. Environmental Assessment Office agrees to a City of Kamloops request to hold one — will surely take on even more importance as questions are raised about how KGHM International will ensure it can’t happen here.