Protesters slam Imperial Metals over Mount Polley

Protesters hold a banner outside Imperial Metals's head office. Photo: Jeffrey Richmond

A crowd gathered outside the Vancouver head office of Imperial Metals (TSX:III) on Monday afternoon to protest against the mining company in connection with the Mount Polley tailings pond disaster.

Led by the Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society, protestors chanted, sang and made speeches denouncing the Vancouver-based miner.

“The water is essentially our lifeblood,” said Dawn Morrison, chair and founder of a working group on indigenous food sovereignty with the B.C. Food Systems Network.

“And the salmon are the backbone of our communities and our life and our land and food system. So it’s really critical that we protect the water,” she said.

The catastrophic failure August 4 of the tailings pond wall at the Mount Polley copper and gold mine near Likely released 10 billion litres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of metals-laden fine sand, contaminating several lakes, rivers and creeks in the Cariboo region.

Morrison claimed Imperial Metals is not telling the truth about its ability to treat the contaminated water.

“We know that the energy and the spirit of that water is sacred and it will never be the same after they contaminate it, no matter how much they treat it,” she said.

David Clow, an environmental activist on a 1,400 kilometre wheelchair journey to raise awareness of the potential dangers of the Northern Gateway Pipeline, appeared to agree.

"The effects are permanent,” he said. "We’re going to be dealing with this forever, long after (the people responsible are) gone. Long after their companies are gone, we’re going to have to be dealing with their mess.”

Clow dismissed the idea that fining the company $1 million would send other miners an effective message.

“If the punitive effects don’t exceed their profits, then what incentive do they have to stop these actions?” he said.

“If you remove all the speculation and you boil it down to what’s left, we have two once pristine lakes that are now Imperial Metals tailings ponds,” he said. “That’s what’s left.”