‘Moratorium’ on mining ‘activities’ would be serious

WEDNESDAY MORNING EDITORIAL — Even if one interprets the words of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council in its statement on the Mount Polley Mine tailings-pond situation less literally than they appear on paper, they are not good news for B.C.’s mining industry or the Christy Clark government.

The tribal council stated Tuesday, quoting Adams Lake Band Chief Nelson Leon, “We must demand a moratorium on mining and exploration activities in our province before it’s too late.”

Map of affected area.  (Cariboo Regional District)

Map of affected area.
(Cariboo Regional District)

Depending on what meaning is assigned to the word “activities,” that sounds like a call to bring the mining industry to a grinding halt until assurances can be given that a situation like Mount Polley won’t ever happen again.

Even if the call was for a moratorium only on new mining development, it would be a very strong position to take. B.C. relies on mining for much of its wealth. Premier Clark went on record during the last provincial election campaign as wanting to open several new mines in short order.

The tribal council’s reaction came barely 24 hours after the breach that left politicians, bureaucrats and mine owners scrambling to figure out what went wrong and what to do about it.

Imperial Metals, which owns the mine, was a little slow to react in an age in which Twitter carries bad news around the world almost instantly, but it did issue a couple of statements and then held a news conference.

Company president Brian Kynoch said there was no advance indication the dam on the tailings pond might break, and that water from the pond is almost good enough to drink.

“The solids at Mount Polley are relatively benign — low mercury, very low arsenic, low metal content,” the Canadian Press quoted him as saying. “I apologize for what happened. If you asked me two weeks ago if it could happen, I would have said it couldn’t.”

Some of the company’s response came after the tribal council’s own angry reaction, but it’s not likely anything Imperial Metals has to say in the immediate aftermath is going to assuage concerns. The government itself isn’t offering much solace. Mines Minister Bill Bennett said the incident “shouldn’t have happened,” and the Environment Ministry told CBC News it had warned Imperial Metals about levels in the tailings pond several weeks ago.

(A story on the CBC News website provides some FAQs on tailings ponds.)

If the depth of the tribal council’s anger proves to reflect any breadth of general public opinion, there could be tough days ahead for B.C.’s mining industry.




About Mel Rothenburger (7143 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

6 Comments on ‘Moratorium’ on mining ‘activities’ would be serious

  1. Pierce graham // August 7, 2014 at 11:08 AM // Reply

    With the Mt. Polley disaster staring us in the face , how could anyone be so insensitive as to call a mining moratorium”serious?” Take a look at the disaster area. Is it not serious? What of the effects on local lives?
    Now, take a look at the Ajax proposal to use, and enlarge, Goose Lake as a tailings pond. Now, imagine the natural volume of water in it increased hundreds of times. Next, follow on foot or on Google Earth the natural water courses. There are only two, one leading into Jocko Lake, the other directly to Peterson Creek and down hill to Kamloops
    Serious, indeed!

  2. Pierce graham // August 6, 2014 at 9:21 AM // Reply

    And an after-thought on Mr, Beaton’s concern for potential native impact on tourism. The Mount Polley site, before the disaster and certainly after it, will have – indeed, already has had- a totally destructive impact on tourism and everything else. it sure isn’t good for mining, is it!

  3. Step One = Create a fair Mineral Tenure Act for all BC’s communities and their residents and make it retroactive as was done for the tobacco situation in 2005 because of a possible drain on the Health Care System in the future. With the recent breech examples it could because of a possible drain on our future.

  4. Pierce graham // August 6, 2014 at 8:57 AM // Reply

    Lawrence Beaton has his facts wrong when he accuses the native peoples of being “the new landlords of our province.” I was always taught that the natives (as the name implies) were here first and England in its imperial and colonial arrogance simply walked in and expropriated it. Funny how ignorance works sometimes.

  5. LAWRENCE BEATON // August 6, 2014 at 6:07 AM // Reply

    It was with some interest that I noted the expressed desire of our First Nation’s leaders to place a moratorium on mining in our fair province. As the new landlords of our province, is it the desire of First Nation’s to place a moratorium on mining, LNG, transportation of oil across tribal lands, and fishing, What about tourism, have we reached the point where the doors of BC have been slammed shut for future business and their respective spin-offs. Just wondering, and no I do not have a vested interest in any of the above except as a taxpayer.

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