B.C. orders mine to plug toxic tailings release

WATCH:  Big fears remain over the impact of the chemicals released into BC’s pristine waterways from the Mount Polley Mine tailings breach. John Daly has an update.

LIKELY, B.C. – The company that owns a gold and copper mine in British Columbia where a tailings pond burst, sending a massive wave of water and potentially toxic silt into surrounding waterways, has been formally ordered to clean up the site and prevent more material from escaping.

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  • Likely residents wait for water samples from Mount Polley mine disaster

  • Water from breached tailings pond near Likely B.C. almost drinkable: Imperial Metals president

  • Residents calling it an environmental disaster: tailings pond breach at Mount Polley Mine near Likely, BC

But government officials acknowledged Wednesday they still didn’t know exactly what spilled out or how the breach will affect surrounding lakes and rivers, where salmon spawn, locals get their drinking water and tourism operators take their customers.

A tailings pond dam at Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley Mine, about 600 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, failed on Monday, sending 10 million cubic metres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of toxic silt into Polley Lake and Quesnel Lake.

The breach prompted a ban on drinking or bathing in water from surrounding lakes and river, which was still in effect on Wednesday, though the company has insisted the water in the tailings pond was safe and the solids that spilled out were “relatively benign.”

The province’s Environment Ministry announced Wednesday that the company received a “pollution abatement order” a day earlier.

Under the terms of the order, Mount Polley Mine was required immediately take steps to prevent more waste from escaping into nearby creeks and lakes. The company was also ordered to conduct an environmental assessment and submit a clean-up action plan by Wednesday, with a more detailed plan due by the end of next week.

The province also ordered the company to provide a detailed assessment of the materials that were released, including the anticipated impact on the environment.

Mines Minister Bill Bennett said it was still too early to assess the potential impact of the spill, though he said that may change Thursday, when the first water-testing results were expected to be released.

“I am hopeful the company is correct in terms of what they say their records show (about what was) in the tailings and that will lead us to positive results, but I don’t know that,” said Bennett.

The minister promised a thorough investigation that will look at both the actions of the provincial government and the company.

“If the company has made some mistakes and is the cause of what happened, it will have to acknowledge that and it will have to bear the costs and responsibility for that,” said Bennett.

A summary of material dumped into the tailings pond filed last year with Environment Canada listed 326 tonnes of nickel, over 400,000 kilograms of arsenic, 177,000 kilograms of lead and 18,400 tonnes of copper and its compounds.

On Monday, the same day as the breach, the company sent the provincial government data about the tailings pond water, B.C.’s Environment Ministry said.

Tests indicated that levels of selenium exceeded drinking-water guidelines by almost three times and organic carbon concentrations exceeded guidelines for chlorinated water. The ministry also said nitrate, cadmium, copper, iron and selenium had exceeded aquatic life guidelines at least sporadically in recent years.

“The ministry would not say that (the water in the tailings pond), based on the characterization, had satisfied drinking water requirements,” said Jennifer McGuire of the B.C. Environment Ministry.

Company president Brian Kynoch apologized to local residents on Tuesday and appeared to downplay the potential dangers posed by the spill. He said the water released from the pond was very close to drinking water. He also said mercury had never been detected in the water and arsenic levels were low.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said the presence of heavy metals in the tailings could be devastating to salmon.

“I don’t think there’s any question that it’s absolutely catastrophic —it has the potential to devastate the wild salmon stock.

Quesnel Lake and the Quesnel River are considered important breeding grounds for wild salmon, as are other nearby creeks. The system eventually reaches the Fraser River.

“It couldn’t happen at a worse time: the Quesnel salmon run is expected to pass by in a couple of weeks,” said Phillip.

Craig Orr, the executive director of the group Watershed Watch, said he was skeptical of the claims by the company and the province.

“It’s a disaster, no question about it,” he said in an interview.

“There have been a lot of concerns about human health and drinking water, but a lot of concerns I’ve heard have been about the fish,”

Orr said debris could impede salmon migration, while heavy metals such as copper could either kill the salmon or harm the fish.

Sharon Borkowski and her husband own Northern Lights Lodge in Likely, offering cabin rentals and fly fishing trips. Last year, they began renting out the cabins to mine workers after officials with the Mount Polley Mine approached them with the offer of steady, year-round rentals.

The miners went home this week and Borkowski isn’t sure fishing tourists will return to the site of a major industrial accident to take the workers’ place.

“This affects us double,” said Borkowski.

Borkowski said she’s optimistic with the company’s statements that the water is safe, but she’s still waiting for the results of water quality testing, expected Thursday.

“When you see those aerial photos, it’s pretty devastating,” said Borkowski.

“Then (when the results are in) I will feel a little better, but long-term, I just don’t know. Until they get those results in, I don’t think they can tell you what effect it has.”

— With files from James Keller in Vancouver

B.C. medical officer concerned over drug deaths at music festivals

WATCH: After several deaths at music festival around the country, what should be done about so-called ‘party drugs’? Julia Foy reports.

Should B.C. change their approach to regulating “party drugs” at music festivals?

“We don’t seem persuade people to stop taking the pills,” laments Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall.

“People who take them run a risk because they don’t know what they’re getting, or what the components or dosage is.”

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Lynn Tolocka, a 24-year-old from Leduc, Alberta, collapsed and died from a suspected drug overdose during the Boonstock festival in Penticton last weekend. Last month, a 21-year-old man died at the Pemberton Musical Festival, where testing is still underway to determine cause of death.

READ MORE: Boonstock overdose victim identified

“People may think these party drugs aren’t drugs are addictive, they’re safe drugs,” says coroner Barb McLintock.

“They’re not safe drugs, because of people’s individual reactions, and they’re basically made by chemists at home, and you don’t know how good your chemist is.”

With the Squamish Valley Music Festival taking place this weekend, McLintock is warning people to stay hydrated.

“Some of the rave drugs, ecstasy in particular, the problems can exacerbated if you get dehydrated or very hot. And when you think about how hot it was last weekend, and maybe this weekend, the chances of heat making things worse are very high.”

Kendall says an experiment underway in New Zealand, where manufacturers can create synthetic drugs for “legal highs” if they’ve been clinically tested, is worth watching.

“Their concept was, if they can do that for alcohol, maybe we can do that for psychoactive drugs that are mildly stimulant…but where an appropriate dose won’t kill anybody.”

Kendall says anyone feeling sick or lightheaded during this weekend’s festival in Squamish should head to a medical tent right away.

FIFA fever takes over Edmonton’s Commonweatlh Stadium – Edmonton

WATCH: The FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup is underway in Edmonton. Tom Vernon has more.

EDMONTON – Some of the best female soccer players in the world are in Edmonton for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, which kicked off on Tuesday.

Venue GM Trisa Zimmerman says it has been a long couple of weeks turning Commonwealth Stadium into a FIFA soccer venue. Now, that the work is done, she says the feedback has been very positive.

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  • Could Canada host the 2026 FIFA World Cup (and do we even want to)?

“The teams are very excited by the environment they’re going to be in, they’ve all done their official training now, so they’ve all had their opportunity to be on the pitch, be in the stadium, and I think we’re going to see some awesome soccer,” Zimmerman said.

Team USA, who will play two group stage games in Edmonton, certainly seemed impressed.

“It was gorgeous, it was absolutely gorgeous, and the girls loved the colour of the seats especially,” gushed head coach Michelle French.

“It was stunning,” added Andi Sullivan. “The field was amazing, the stands are beautiful, obviously the weather here in Edmonton is perfect for playing.”

This isn’t the first time this tournament has been held here. In 2002, Team Canada, led by Christine Sinclair, finished in second place, losing to the Americans in the final in front of more than 47,000 fans. It was a game widely viewed as a turning point for women’s soccer.

“Definitely the level of international soccer for women has increased since 2002,” said Zimmerman. “And I think Edmonton can take claim for this..it basically sky-rocketed women’s soccer onto the world stage.”

You can find more information about the event here.

With files from Tom Vernon, Global News

Gitxsan First Nation to shut down CN railway through their territory

The CN railway that passes through the Gitxsan First Nation territories will be shutting down, according to the Hereditary Chiefs’ negotiator.

“We have no choice but to go through with the eviction,” said Gwaans (Beverly Clifton Percival), the Gitxsan negotiator.

“We were being reasonable, we were allowing time to pass. The result was more of a non-response. This shows why this reconciliation is needed.”

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An eviction notice was given on July 9 to sports fisheries, forest companies and CN Rail, and Hereditary Chiefs voted unanimously on July 30 to enforce the notice.

At issue is the provincial negotiating agreements with the Kitselas and Kitsumkalum bands. The Gitxsan say those treaties took away land from their territory.

“Minister Rustad claims they are working with the Gitxsan on this, yet we have received what amounts to a non-response to our solution to the impasse” said Gwaans in a statement. “This is why the reconciliation process is not working in British Columbia. Despite court rulings there seems to be no willingness to follow the law.”

Gwaans would not say where they were planning on blocking rail lines, or how they would do so, only that “it will be seen in the coming hours.”

The Gitxsan also believe the provincial and federal governments need to do more to respect last month’s Tsilhqot’in Nation ruling by the Supreme Court, which broadly recognized aboriginal title to land.

READ MORE: Top court grants land title to B.C. First Nation

The Gitxsan territories comprise 33,000 square kilometre in northwestern B.C. They are roughly bordered by Smithers to the east, Terrace to the west, Iskut to the north, and Thudade and Bear Lake to the northeast.

Last month, the province offered $14 million to the Gitxsan to secure a pipeline right-of-way.

An outline of the 33,000 square kilometres of Gitxsan territory in B.C.

Your Manitoba: August – Winnipeg

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Bouchard bounced from Rogers Cup – Montreal

MONTREAL – Tennis fans in Montreal are hanging their heads in disappointment following the early exit of Eugenie Bouchard from the Rogers Cup.

The Westmount native lost in three sets, 6-0, 2-6, 6-0 to American qualifier Shelby Rogers.

The loss is a big blow to Bouchard who has been having a spectacular year.

She reached the semifinals of both the French Open and Australian Open, and reached the finals of Wimbledon last month.

But the 20-year-old ranked eighth in the world on the WTA Tour was no match for Rogers, ranked 113.

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  • Genie Army travels to Montreal to support Eugenie Bouchard

  • Bouchard’s Wimbledon loss cost her millions in sponsorship: experts

Bouchard hit frequent unforced errors and appeared flat from the moment the match began.

Rogers, by contrast, came out firing with blistering ground strokes and returns of serve.

Bouchard’s energy level seemed to peak in the second set with Montreal fans cheering her on and she managed to win the set.

But her level of play wasn’t sustained and Rogers easily won the third set.

“I feel like a Montrealer who just lost a game. Like a Canadiens game. And it hurts. But I mean this is the game; the girl played well and I’m happy for her but we lost Genie,” one Montreal tennis fan said.

“I found her nervous in the start. Maybe all the people here in her hometown, that’s what creates it,” said another immediately following Bouchard’s loss.

Tournament organizers are also disappointed but they say ticket sales won’t suffer.

Eugenie Bouchard didn’t fare well at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.

Tim Sargeant, Global News

Eugene Lapierre, the tournament director expects to set a world attendance record for a one-week, female-only event.

There are still plenty of other headliners competing including the well known Williams sisters and the hard-hitting Russian star, Maria Sharapova.

Second round matches continue all day and evening on Wednesday.

Concerns about Mount Polley tailings pond were raised 3 years ago

VANCOUVER – It turns out that in recent months, Imperial Metals had accumulated more water than it could handle, partly due to runoff and it was in the process of applying for more capacity.

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Early Monday morning the tailings pond at Mount Polley Mine breached, and an estimated 10 million cubic metres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of toxic waste — equivalent to 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools — spilled into Hazeltine Creek, Quesnel Lake and Polley Lake.

After two days of pressure from the public, the president of Imperial Metals, Brian Kynoch, faced the press and concerned residents in the town of Likely, B.C.

“I apologize for what happened,” said Kynoch. “If you would have asked me two weeks ago if that could happen, I would say that couldn’t happen. So I know that for our company it’s going to take a long time to earn the community’s trust back.”

READ MORE: Before and after photos show devastation of Mount Polley tailings pond breach

However, concerns were raised about the Mount Polley Mine tailings pond three years ago. The mine was reportedly dealing with more water than it could handle from operations and runoff.

The company made an application to government to dump the waste water from the mine into the local watershed.

There was huge opposition from the community including local aboriginal bands who hired an independent environmental consultant who made two key recommendations regarding water treatment.

He said those recommendations were not followed to his knowledge.

“I think when something like this happens you have to be surprised,” said consultant Brian Olding. “I mean you just don’t wake up in the morning expecting to hear something like this happened but in retrospect, knowing what I know about it, the situation that was in place, no. I’m not surprised.”

“That’s why we put those recommendations in place. Period.”

Minister of Mines and Energy, Bill Bennett said Imperial Metals has been operating in B.C. for many years and added that for the most part, they have been compliant. “It had an out of compliance incident in May, in terms of the water level in the tailings pond being too high,” said Bennett. “The water level was reduced and we monitor that on a monthly basis and they have been in compliance up until this point.”

The last time ministry staff inspected the mine was in September, 2013.

– With files from Rumina Daya

Samsung, Apple agree to drop lawsuits outside US

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of – Samsung and Apple Inc. have agreed to end all patent lawsuits between each other outside the U.S. in a step back from three years of legal hostilities between the world’s two largest smartphone makers.

However, Samsung Electronics Co. said Wednesday that it and Apple will continue to pursue existing cases in U.S. courts. The two companies did not strike any cross-licensing deal.

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“Samsung and Apple have agreed to drop all litigation between the two companies outside the United States,” the South Korean company said in a statement. “This agreement does not involve any licensing arrangements, and the companies are continuing to pursue the existing cases in U.S. courts.”

The announcement is a significant lessening of corporate hostilities after years of bitter patent disputes over the intellectual property rights for mobile designs and technology. The legal fights spanned about a dozen countries in Asia, North America and Europe.

Lawsuits and other legal actions by Samsung and Apple will come to an end in countries including Germany, England, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, South Korea, Japan and Australia.

The patent cases in the U.S. have come with bigger awards for damages than other countries. In May, a California jury awarded Apple $119 million in a patent battle with Samsung. The same jury also ordered Apple to pay $158,400 to Samsung finding that Apple had infringed one of Samsung’s patents in creating the iPhone 4 and 5. In a separate 2012 jury verdict, Samsung was ordered to pay Apple $930 million. Samsung appealed.

Some analysts said the two companies would eventually bury the hatchet and sign a cross-licensing deal, following the usual pattern of patent cases in the technology industry. There were earlier signs that tensions had eased between two companies. The two agreed to drop their appeals at the U.S. International Trade Commission in June.

But at other times, it seemed the differences were too wide to be bridged. The chief executives of both companies reportedly met several times at the recommendation of a U.S. judge to discuss out of court settlements.

Not all outcomes from the patent actions were damaging to Samsung and Apple. While the two rivals faced damage claims and sales bans of old products here and there, Samsung vaulted to the leading position in the global smartphone market during the last three years.

The series of high-stake lawsuits over some of the world’s most popular gadgets began in April, 2011 when Apple accused Samsung, the maker of Galaxy phones, of slavishly copying the iPhone. Samsung responded by charging Apple of stealing its mobile technology.

©2014The Canadian Press

Canadian professor forced to leave Myanmar over Buddha tattoos

TORONTO – A backpacking Canadian professor said Tuesday he was forced to leave Myanmar after his leg tattoos caused a stir.

Jason Polley, who teaches English at Hong Kong Baptist University, said the problem started a day after he arrived in the country last Tuesday, when a local person took a picture of his Buddha tattoos and posted it to Facebook.

The photo apparently went viral in the southeast Asian country, which experiences Buddhist-Muslim conflict and has many who consider lower body parts unclean.

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In an interview from Bangkok, Polley said about 15 tourism officials came to his hotel in Inle Lake, north of the capital Yangon, on Saturday night and “accosted” him in the lobby.

“They said: ‘Why would you put these tattoos on your leg? You understand that you’re a Facebook star in Myanmar?”‘ he said by phone.

Polley, of Russell, Ont., is a Mahayana Buddhist and his tattoos, which chart the religion’s development, are on his leg to represent a pillar of support.

He said most Myanmarese practise a different branch of the religion, and officials told him they were there for his protection as radicals might hurt him over the tattoos.

In addition to demanding the couple’s passports, Polley said, six officials repeatedly photographed him and his leg, and one tried to grab him when he stood up.

“He was the only official who really made things extremely uncomfortable for both of us,” Polley said, adding the others were cordial.

“I would have gladly fought him right there. In retrospect, I would still want to fight him, even though it would be a bad idea.”

Polley said the officials’ tone became kinder after questioning him when they seemed to realize he wasn’t an Islamic “fundamentalist.”

They told them not to leave the hotel until Sunday morning, when they said they expected to hear back from the country’s tourism minister.

But an hour later, Polley said, he and his Hong Kong girlfriend, Margaret Lam, were given two hours to gather their belongings. The officials then put them on a 15-hour car ride to the airport, Polley said.

While officials initially told him he was to be deported, Polley said, other officials said he was being asked to leave the country for his own safety.

Polley said there is no Canadian embassy in Myanmar, and his guidebook told him to contact the Australian embassy, which was closed Saturday night. He and Lam were able to ask friends in Hong Kong to contact Canadian and Chinese officials on Sunday morning.

Chinese officials responded almost within the hour and got a Burmese speaker on the phone to talk to local authorities, but the Canadians did not get back to him.

Polley planned to finish the rest of his 23-day vacation in Thailand and Laos, though he did not rule out returning to Myanmar in future.

“The officials, who included the district chief of tourism in Myanmar, were so kind as to invite us back once cooler heads prevail and the situation improves,” he said.

Foreign Affairs spokesman John Babcock said in a statement countries have the “prerogative” in determining whom to keep in their borders and consular officials cannot intervene if Canadians do not meet “entry requirements.”

©2014The Canadian Press

Likely residents wait for water samples from Mount Polley mine disaster

The town of Likely, B.C. has a population around 300 people.

It seemed almost all of them were packed into the community hall on Tuesday evening.

For the first time since 4.5 million cubic metres of toxic waste spewed from the Mount Polley Mine tailings pond into surrounding rivers and lakes, the people of the community were able to speak directly with officials from the provincial government and Imperial Metals, which owns the mine.

“We knew that they didn’t have a lot of answers, but people needed to yell and scream, while knowing there’s going to be a another meeting with more information soon,” said Robin Hood, Likely Chamber of Commerce president.

“It was very beneficial.”

A Public Information Session was held at the Likely Community Hall on Tuesday, the first time residents have gathered to hear information on the Mount Polley spill, which released 4.5 million cubic of trailings into the ecosystem.

Story continues below

HangZhou Night Net


  • Concerns about Mount Polley tailings pond were raised 3 years ago

  • Before and after photos show devastation of Mount Polley Mine tailings pond breach

  • What’s in Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley tailings? Should you be worried?

  • Mount Polley tailings spill: What 5 million cubic metres looks like

  • Tailings pond breach has local eco-tour operators concerned

  • Water from breached tailings pond near Likely B.C. almost drinkable: Imperial Metals president

There was venting by some, asking questions that won’t be answered until the results of water samples are released on Thursday.

“I’ve sat through with three or four meetings with Mount Polley about discharging effluent,” said one man at the meeting.

“They can fill you with so much chemical [information], but we don’t understand it, I don’t understand it, it’s a waste of god damn time. All I want to know, after these water samples are done, can we drink the water or not.”

Others asked how the pond could have been breached in the first place, why there was a gap in officials getting to the scene, and why previous warningsweren’t heeded.

MORE: Concerns about Mount Polley tailings pond were raised 3 years ago

But others in the community preached calm as they wait.

“Things like this don’t happen overnight, and they’re not cleaned up overnight,” said Diane Gibson, who runs the town post office and restaurant.

“Before one points a finger, let’s wait and see. It’s devalued my property, it’s devalued a lot of people’s property, now deal with it.”

“It’s unfortunate that it’s happened here in our little Shangri-La, but is has. Mount Polley is up against it, and it doesn’t matter where the blame lies now, we as business people need to carry on.”

WATCH: Imperial Metals president Brian Kynoch answers Global News reporter Jas Johal’s questions about reestablishing trust in the community.

Minister of Mines Bill Bennett flew over the site on Tuesday, and said all resources at his disposal would be put towards dealing with the consequences.

“We don’t know if it’s really, really terribly bad, or not so bad. We don’t know. We hope it’s not so bad, but it could be really bad,” said Bennett.

“We have to find out quickly as possible and manage the situation. I have to take a step back as the Mines Minister and take a look at every single tailings pond, every single dam in this province, and make sure we’re doing what we should be doing.”

For those dependent on ecotourism or the mine for their livelihood, the short-term effects are already ‘really bad’.

Hood says miners at Mount Polley have been sent letters telling them not to report for work, and it’s still unknown when – or if – the mine will reopen.

“They’re working at the mine, they’re making $100,000 a year, they’ve got shiny new boats and snowmobiles and trucks and boom, the paycheck stops tomorrow morning,” he said.

“There’s a limit to how long people withstand that. There’s a lot of stress right now.”

MORE: Tailings pond breach has local eco-tour operators concerned

Meanwhile, a number of lodges in the area have seen a surge of cancellations for the rest of the summer.

“We’re scrambling,” said Skeed Borkowski, who runs Northern Lights Lodge with his wife Sharon.

“We have lots of cancellations. It’s tough.

“When we’re fly fishing with clients, I would take a cup because I’m so proud of this water. I think we should give [the mine’s] management free rooms here, and we’ll get them a glass a day, and see how that works out.

“Where was the Ministry of Mines? We’re regulated with our fly fishing, and compliance is a big part of our business. How can the biggest disaster in this province, how can that happened when they’re regulated by a ministry?”

Aerial photo of the breach site, Global News.

Global News

“It’s hard to look out at this water and see all this stuff,” said Sharon. “You have no idea what’s in it. I can’t use any water that we have here.”

READ MORE: Water from breached tailings pond near Likely B.C. almost drinkable: Imperial Metals president

The economic impacts are secondary to those in Likely at the moment. For now, they want to see the water sample results. And they have their fingers crossed.

“I would like to know as soon as possible what test results come from water samples,” said Borkowski, “and then we can move on.”

– With files from Jas Johal and John Daly