Pour Him a Tall One! Mining Exec Insists He'd Drink Water From Tailings Pond
First Nations are demanding immediate action, and a lot more communication, from officials at Imperial Metals Corp, whose ruptured tailings pond has sent torrents of metals-laden silt and water—nearly four billion gallons of it—cascading into pristine rivers and lakes in central British Columbia.
Meanwhile Imperial Metals Inc. President Brian Kynoch said that the tailing pond, even undiluted by the clear waters of Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake, was just about drinkable.
"It's very close to drinking water quality, the water in our tailings," he said at a press conference “plagued with technical problems,” according to CBC News. "There's almost everything in it but at low levels.... No mercury, very low arsenic and very low other metals."
He said he himself would be willing to drink from the tailing pond, even as he apologized for the breach and the spill, saying that the cause would be investigated.
"I apologize for what happened," Kynoch said. "If you asked me two weeks ago if this could have happened, I would have said it couldn't."
First Nations whose territory is in the vicinity, and who depend on fishing and the salmon runs, said they were not being given enough information fast enough. The Williams Lake and Xat’sull (Soda Creek) Indian Bands, whose Northern Secwepemc te Qelmucw Traditional Territory is now contaminated with sludge, issued a statement on August 6 alleging lack of communication by the company.
"Our communities are filled with sorrow, frustration and anger as they are left wondering just what poisons are in the water, and what is being done to address this disaster,” said Williams Lake Chief Ann Louie and Xat’sull Chief Bev Sellars in a joint statement. “Three days after the disaster, finally we have had direct discussion with the provincial government. This time lapse during a time of crisis is unacceptable."
They pointed out that as stewards of the land in their territory, they bear much of the brunt of the disaster.
“Monday’s devastating tailings pond breach is something that both our First Nations have lived in fear of for many years,” the chiefs said. “We have raised repeated concerns about the safety and security of this mine, but they were ignored. Now we are being ignored again. Enough is enough.”
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) echoed those concerns.
“We call on the provincial and federal governments and Imperial Metals to take all necessary action to mitigate the impacts of this developing and deeply troubling environmental crisis,” said AFN B.C. Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould in a statement. “It is imperative that First Nations and others living in the region have up-to-date and accurate information.”
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