Immediate Action is needed to limit impacts of Mount Polley Mine tailings pond breach

OTTAWA, ON – On August 7, 2014  the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) called for immediate action to address and limit any potential impacts of the Mount Polley Mine tailings pond breach in British Columbia.

“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 BC Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould. “It is imperative that First Nations and others living in the region have up-to-date and accurate information. First Nations must be involved in the development and implementation of remediation plans as well as being involved in the future regulation of the environment to ensure their citizens, families and traditional territories are protected.  There are immediate risks to the residents, the environment and the economy – particularly the fisheries. This area is upstream from the Fraser River and is a major spawning ground for salmon, both of which are integral to Indigenous peoples culture and way of life.”

The Mount Polley Mine is an open pit copper and gold mine southeast of Quesnel, BC, operated by Imperial Metals Corp.  On August 4, 2014, a tailings pond wall collapsed spilling (according to current reports) 10 million cubic metres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of silt that could contain metals like cadmium, lead and arsenic into surrounding waterways.  Efforts are still underway to contain and assess the damage.  The Cariboo Regional District has already initiated a water ban urging people not to drink or wash in the water and declared a local state of emergency on August 6.

AFN Alberta Regional Chief Cameron Alexis, who oversees the Environment portfolio for the AFN, stated, “There are serious concerns about the broader and long-term effects on the people, the water and the environment in this region.  First Nations and many Canadians continue to be concerned about the weakening of environmental standards and protection of waterways and fish habitats as a result of recent changes to legislation.  Because of our location and way of life, First Nations are often the first to feel the effects of environmental changes.  We must focus on the need to include First Nations in early planning and mitigation as well as monitoring the long-term effects where our lands and traditional territories are concerned.  This is our right and this approach will benefit all Canadians.”

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. Follow AFN on Twitter @AFN_Comms, @AFN_Updates.

SOURCE: Assembly of First Nations

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