MiningWatch MiningWatch Canada’s charges against the B.C. government and Mount Polley Mining Corp. will be heard in Williams Lake Provincial Court Friday, Jan. 13, beginning at 9:30 a.m.
The charges stem from the August 2014 tailings impoundment breach at the Mount Polley Mine, said Ugo Lapointe, program co-ordinator for MWC.
“This was the largest mine spill in Canadian history and there is lots of evidence of damage to fish habitat and clear violations of the Canadian Fisheries Act,” Lapointe told the Tribune Thursday. “We are hoping the federal government will enforce its own laws to send a signal to the rest of the country that when you violate Canadian law, sanctions must be brought forward.”
Friday’s court appearance is the first one since MiningWatch filed a private prosecution at the Williams Lake court registry in October.
“It’s a matter of setting the bar where it should be for any operator in this country and we are concerned that two and a half years later there have been no charges brought forward by any level of government,” LaPointe said. “That’s the general statement we are making at this stage and part of our rationale for doing what we are doing.”
Charging both the mining company and the B.C. government is a heavy case for a non-profit organization such as MiningWatch, LaPointe said, noting the legal action is supported by multiple local, provincial, and national organizations including West Coast Environmental Law-Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund (main funder), Amnesty International Canada, Sierra Club BC, Wilderness Committee, First Nations Women Advocating for Responsible Mining, Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake, Quesnel River Watershed Alliance, Fair Mining Collaborative, Rivers Without Borders, British Columbia Environmental Network, Clayoquot Action, Forest Protection Allies, Kamloops Area Preservation Association, Kamloops Physicians for the Environment Society and Alaska Clean Water Advocacy.
“We want to make a case that we think it is the job of the federal Crown to enforce its own laws and we will plead for that,” LaPointe added. “It would ensure public confidence in the regulatory system.”
Mount Polley Mine’s vice-president of corporate affairs Steve Robertson and spokespersons for the ministries of mines and environment declined comment saying the matter is before the courts.
A third independent investigation of the Mount Polley tailings pond breach is being led by British Columbia’s Conservation Officer Service, and assisted by Environment Canada, Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the RCMP.