Target: Mary Polak, Minister of Environment for British Columbia, Canada
Goal: Demand an in-depth, ongoing assessment of the impact of the Mount Polley mining disaster and stricter environmental guidelines for all mines operating in the province
For years the tailings pond at Canada’s Mount Polley mine collected wastewater from the area’s copper mining operations. A fragile dam held back millions of cubic meters of sludge–until early August, when the dam failed and a wall of mud and unknown toxins overran a creek and two lakes. These waterways are crucial for spawning salmon; the surrounding forests are home primarily to indigenous First Nations people who have long fought against mining on their lands. While the Canadian government assures residents that drinking water is safe, and that there will be little harm to area wildlife, indigenous communities remain concerned that this environmental disaster will be largely ignored in the ongoing push to exploit the Earth.
The forests around Mount Polley are wild and pristine. A toxic spill of such proportions will certainly have consequences, say indigenous leaders. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, released a statement addressing the ongoing impact of weak regulation: “What we have now in B.C. and Canada…are repugnant and reprehensible processes of rubber-stamp approvals that shamelessly pander to industry and tragically at the great expense of environmental devastation.”
The mining company responsible had been warned that its tailings pond was being filled too rapidly, writes Common Dreams, leaving many to conclude the dam breach could have been prevented. Despite the obvious threat to wildlife and stream health, the provincial government continues to insist that the failure of the Mount Polley mine tailings pond was not an environmental disaster. Denial will not save the salmon. Stand with First Nations communities who continue to resist resource extraction on their lands. Demand a committed assessment of the impacts of this tragedy, and strengthened regulations to prevent future spills.
Dear Minister Polak,
The government of British Columbia has spent a lot of time reassuring the public that the Mount Polley mining disaster is anything but. Your agency issued numerous citations to operators of the mine since 2012, including one which specifically named the tailings pond as a potential problem area. Millions of cubic meters of wastewater and sludge from years of copper mining swelled an adjacent stream from less than two meters wide to roughly 100–a stream crucial for spawning salmon. How can this be described as anything less than an environmental disaster?
The Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas has done little more then compare the devastation to natural landslides, giving indigenous communities living in the area little confidence in its impartiality. Too long have regulators catered to the whims of industry rather than doing their duty to protect citizens and the environment. I call on you, and your colleagues at the Ministry of Environment, to thoroughly investigate the impacts of the spill and to strengthen mining regulations to prevent future tragedies.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Johnathan Hayward via The Province