Mining company denies water ‘toxic’
A view of the material that leached into the Quesnel area water system. (CARIBOO REGIONAL DISTRICT)
A tense press conference in Likely, B.C. by Imperial Metals Ltd. a day after its massive tailings pond breach nearby saw the firm's president repeatedly interrupted on Tuesday.
President Brian Kynoch apologized for the 3 a.m. Monday accident, but denied reports that the mine was disposing of high levels of mercury, arsenic and other heavy metals on-site.
“It's very close to drinking water quality, the water that sits in our tailings pond,” he said. “The water in the tailings facility are not toxic.”
The accident saw at least five million cubic metres of tailings slurry from the copper and gold mine breach the earthen dam and rush downstream towards two lakes.
Kynoch was interrupted by an unknown man during his announcement, who demanded to know if he himself would drink the water.
“Yes, I would drink the water, but it's of no consequence,” Kynoch replied. “I would drink the water once the solids come out.”
Kynoch argued that when the sediment falls out “the water part going downstream should meet the criteria,” but was again interrupted with questions about suspected toxicity in the solid parts of the slurry. He continued to speak about the water component.
On Tuesday, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Pacific region stated through its Twitter account that potential impacts of the accident on the Fraser watershed sockeye salmon run are unknown.
“DFO will be closely monitoring the salmon run as it approaches the Quesnel system over the coming days.”