New tailings spills show B.C. Liberals failing to protect B.C. wilderness

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VICTORIA – New spills from tailings facilities in the Interior and on Vancouver Island – on the heels of the devastating tailings dam failure at the Mount Polley mine – show the Liberal government is failing to protect B.C.’s pristine wilderness, say the New Democrats.

“On Tuesday, over a month after Mount Polley’s tailing dam failed, the government sent a letter gently reminding Imperial Metals that they weren’t in compliance with the law because they continued to let Mount Polley mine tailings pollute Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake. This shows just how toothless the government’s environmental protections are,” said New Democrat environment spokesperson Spencer Chandra Herbert.

“More than a month after the dam broke and there is still no plan announced for the cleanup, and the B.C. Liberals’ response is to send the company a gentle letter saying kindly ‘don’t do it again’? Meanwhile, two more spills – one at New Gold’s New Afton mine near Kamloops and one at Myra Creek on Vancouver Island – have occurred in the last week.”

Chandra Herbert said British Columbians are growing increasingly worried about the ability of the public service to protect the province’s land and water. One of the first actions of the Liberals in 2001 was to gut protections for the environment and, despite increased activity on the landbase, compliance and enforcement staff fell from approximately 500 staff to around 200 between 2002 and 2012. Inspections fell by half in some instances.

“The result is that we simply have little idea what’s really happening on the land,” said Chandra Herbert. “This poses significant risks to our environmental protections. These three spills might be just a symptom of a larger problem.

New Democrat mining spokesperson Norm Macdonald said the Liberal approach is bad for the industry as well.

“The pattern that the B.C. Liberals are following – acceptance of large donations from companies followed by weak environmental protection followed in turn by environmental disasters such as at Mount Polley – is as bad for workers and communities as it is bad for our water and land,” said Macdonald.