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Fishermen slam government over Mount Polley

Jeremy Nuttall

By Jeremy Nuttall, 24 hours Vancouver

Commercial fishermen in British Columbia say they're fed up with the province’s handling of the Mount Polley mine catastrophe and are taking aim at the government's regulation of the industry.


Earlier this week, the breach of a dam holding back a huge pond of tailings, or waste materials, at Imperial Metals Corp.'s gold and copper mine in the province's interior region sent billions of gallons of grey sludge containing metals and minerals coursing into waterways.

The spill affected rivers that feed into the Fraser River, just days before one of the biggest sockeye salmon runs in years was expected to begin.

Now, unions representing fishermen are accusing the province of not only allowing lax regulations leading to the spill but also sitting on their hands since it happened.

"We're concerned they've got regulations but maybe they're not being enforced," said fisherman Paul Kandt. "We're tightly monitored, where we can fish, how much we can fish – if you take any part of the run out then it's going to affect our ability to harvest."

Preliminary water quality samples showed waterways affected by the spill are within provincial and federal drinking water guidelines, the provincial environment ministry said in a statement. Still, officials advised residents not to drink or bathe in the water, and fishing has been banned in nearby waterways.

Kandt said in his experience the region hit by the tailings disaster is a big part of fisheries and said the government has been slow to fix the problem.

"Let's do something here," Kandt said.

Meanwhile, the province said the flow of the breach has decreased and Imperial Metals is working to plug the massive hole in the side of the pond.​

Premier Christy Clark has said the company will be responsible for all clean-up costs.

The cause of the spill is still being investigated.

There have been no reports of people becoming sick from drinking the water.

--with files from Reuters


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