Tailings pond spill worries Clayoquot mining critics

The environmental disaster left in the wake of a tailings pond breach in B.C.’s Interior is a perfect example of why mining should be banned from sensitive areas on Vancouver Island, says a director with the Friends of Clayoquot Sound.

Eileen Floody, a member of the group’s board, said the breach “reinforces our point of view that there should be no mining at all in the Clayoquot Sound area.”

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Imperial Metals, the company that owns the Mount Polley copper and gold mine southeast of Quesnel, where contaminated water and mine waste spilled into local waterways, has an interest, through a subsidiary company, in mining opportunities near Tofino.

The two spots are the old Fandora mine in the Tranquil Valley and a site on Catface Peninsula, 13 kilometres northwest of Tofino.

“We don’t feel the Clayoquot Sound is an appropriate place for an extracting industry that has the kinds of dangers that are well illustrated by the Mount Polley mine tailings breach,” said Floody. “Mining extraction produces an incredible amount of waste and that waste is always toxic and is stored on site held by a rubble wall.”

Floody said on the west coast of the Island, known for heavy rainfall, a tailings pond would be more likely to breach.

Her concerns were echoed by Jens Wieting, forest and climate campaigner with the Sierra Club of B.C. “This disaster is a wake up for British Columbia. Imperial Metals, the same company responsible for the Mount Polley disaster, is also pursuing a copper mine and a gold mine project in Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island, against widespread opposition,” he said in a statement. “We must not allow the profound risks of mining projects of this type in ecologically-sensitive areas.”

The Tofino-Long Beach Chamber of Commerce did not have a spokesperson available Tuesday, but in the past it has said it didn’t believe mining was compatible with the region’s economic reliance on tourism and the environment.

The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation has also called for a moratorium on mining in the region near Tofino. A spokesperson from the First Nation could not be reached Tuesday.

The Tla-o-qui-aht declared the Tranquil Valley tribal park in Clayoquot Sound, about 20 kilometres northeast of Tofino, off limits to mining activity, after the province issued a gold exploration permit to Imperial Metals last summer.

Though tribal parks have not been recognized by the province, Parks Canada worked with the Tla-o-qui-aht on a “tribal parks establishment project” in one of its declared parks in 2009.

The tribal parks are meant to create a management system to protect the land, but also create sustainable jobs.

The Tla-o-qui-aht received support this year for its moratorium on mining from the City of Victoria and the District of Tofino councils.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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