Canadians Can't Drink Their Water After 1.3 Billion Gallons Of Mining Waste ...
A breach in a tailings pond from the open-pit Mount Polley copper and gold mine sent five million cubic meters (1.3 billion gallons) of slurry gushing into Hazeltine Creek in B.C. That’s the equivalent of 2,000 Olympic swimming pools of waste, the CBC reports. Tailings ponds from mineral mines store a mix of water, chemicals and ground-up minerals left over from mining operations.
The flow of the mining waste, which can contain things like arsenic, mercury, and sulfur, uprooted trees on its way to the creek and forced a water ban for about 300 people who live in the region. That number could grow, as authorities determine just how far the waste has traveled. The cause of the breach is still unknown.
“What we know so far is that debris from the tailings pond backed up a little into Polley Lake, which absorbed some of the flow, but the majority of it went down into the Hazeltine Creek,” Al Richmond, chairman of the Cariboo Regional District told the Vancouver Sun. “The creek (used to be) four feet wide. Now it’s 150 feet wide.”
The region is sparsely populated, which makes emergency response difficult — Richmond told the Vancouver Sun that only four people from the region’s volunteer fire department were able to act as first responders to the disaster. Right now, authorities are working to test all waterways for contamination, a process that Richmond said he hopes will take no more than 48 hours. Richmond also said he didn’t know whether or not the spill had been contained.
“The potential long-term impact to waterways, the watershed and roads is huge,” he said.