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Recent B.C. toxic waste spill alarming, but unfortunately not surprising

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Photo: PressedRat/flickr

Vancouver - Already having successfully defeated another similar proposed B.C. mining site, the Council of Canadians is disturbed, but unfortunately not surprised, about yesterday's massive toxic waste spill in the B.C. Cariboo region. 

The Imperial Metals' Mount Polley Mine spilled five million cubic metres of toxic waste water -- the equivalent of 2000 Olympic-sized swimming pools -- from a gold and copper mine near Quesnel, B.C. The slurry, laden with heavy metals like arsenic and mercury, has contaminated Hazeltine Creek, Quesnel Lake and Polley Lake. The spill has resulted in a complete drinking water ban to the entire Quesnel and Cariboo River systems up to the Fraser River.  

The Council of Canadians opposed previous mining projects in the region, such as Taseko's New Prosperity Mine at Fish Lake and Imperial Metals' Cat Face Mountain Project due to the irreversible, devastating impacts to watersheds and communities.

"With these type of mines, when it comes to spills and leaks, it is not a matter of if but when," says Leila Darwish, the Council of Canadians' Pacific Regional Organizer. "This spill is a warning to other communities living beside open pit mines."

In yesterday's Imperial Metals disaster, there was a break in the tailing pond. Tailing ponds are where leftover toxic materials are held after the extraction of metal. Tailings ponds, central to these mining projects, are anything but safe or secure.

The disaster could decimate the salmon population: salmon runs are currently making their way to their spawning grounds.

"Our people are at the river side wondering if their vital food source is safe to eat," says Garry John, Aboriginal activist and member of the board of directors of the Council of Canadians.

"These companies are gambling with our drinking water, our health and the environment. While mining companies like Imperial Metals make massive profits for 25-30 years, these projects are putting entire water systems and communities at risk. Are these massive mines really worth the risk?" concludes Darwish.

Photo: PressedRat/flickr

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