Phase 1 cleanup done at site of B.C.'s Mount Polley mine disaster: ministry

Contents from a tailings pond is pictured going down the Hazeltine Creek into Quesnel Lake near the town of Likely, B.C. on August, 5, 2014. British Columbia's Ministry of Environment says the first stage of a massive recovery operation at the collapse of a tailings dam at the Mount Polley mine site has been complete.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

VANCOUVER - The company responsible for last summer's collapse of a tailings dam at the Mount Polley mine site has completed the first stage of a massive recovery operation.

The B.C. Ministry of Environment released on Wednesday a Phase 1 progress report, announcing that Imperial Metals Corp. (TSX:III) has taken steps to stabilize a creek and to ensure water entering nearby Quesnel Lake meets provincial standards.

About 24-million cubic metres of mine water and waste gushed into area waterways in B.C.'s central Interior when the dam's tailings pond failed last August.

Phase 2 of the work will continue through next summer and will focus on remediating the impacts of the breach and assessing ecological and human health.

Work that is already started or complete includes the removal of wood debris from the lake, tailings' containment, erosion mitigation, and the protection of fish and archaeological sites, said the ministry.

"The remediation and cleanup work done over the past year is truly impressive and I thank all involved," said Environment Minister Mary Polak in a news release.

"We recognize full environmental remediation will take years and we will continue to work closely with first Nations, the local communities and the mine to ensure a comprehensive long-term plan for monitoring, remediation and restoration is complete."

A company spokesman was not immediately available to comment.

The ministry said stabilizing Hazeltine Creek during the first phase of the remediation work was meant to make it "safe" over the winter months and when spring delivers higher water levels.

The company was responsible for the work, which is being overseen by the ministry.

Earlier this month, Mines Minister Bill Bennett said the government granted the company conditional approval to reopen, although he said it still had to apply for further permits before it can operate fully.

Bennett said the company must apply this fall for a second conditional permit to treat and discharge water from a so-called Springer pit, which is essentially an empty quarry.

By June 30, 2016, the company must submit its final permit application, detailing its long-term plans for water treatment and discharge, said Bennett.

Company spokesman Steve Robertson said in early July he expected the mine to recall as many as 30 workers immediately, and estimated it would take a month to start production.

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