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Mount Polley short-term discharge permit approved

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Mount Polley tailings pond breach
Aerial view of the Mount Polley tailings pond breach in the Cariboo Region of B.C. Photo by Cariboo Regional District, YouTube.

After public consultation, British Columbia has approved Mount Polley Mining Corporation’s application for a short-term permit to treat and then discharge water outside of the mine site.

The permit is needed because it is estimated that, under normal precipitation conditions, water levels in Springer Pit will reach permitted capacity in April 2016. Springer Pit is an existing open pit on the mine site where tailings are currently being managed.

In accordance with the approved short-term water treatment and discharge permit, treated water will be discharged into Hazeltine Creek and flow to a sediment pond. From there, the treated water would enter a pipeline that will discharge approximately 30 to 40 metres below the surface of Quesnel Lake.

The province said any treated and discharged water will be required to meet Ministry of Environment water quality guidelines for aquatic and public health.

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Final approval was made by a statutory decision maker from the Ministry of Environment after a 30-day public consultation and comment period and a comprehensive technical review by the Cariboo Mine Development Review Committee.

The committee includes representatives from provincial agencies, First Nations, local governments (City of Williams Lake and Cariboo Regional District), the community of Likely, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Environment Canada. There was extensive engagement with the Williams Lake Indian Band and Soda Creek Indian Band as well as the residents of Likely.

The approval of this permit is the second of three steps the company needs to continue operation.

The first step was authorization, from both the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Energy and Mines in July, for the company to conditionally re-start restricted operations. One of the re-start conditions was to have government approve the short-term water discharge permit. The final step for Mount Polley Mining Corporation will be to submit a long-term water treatment and discharge plan by June 30, 2016.

The tailings dam failure occurred on August 4, 2014 resulting in the loss of about 17 million cubic meters of water and 8 million cubic meters of tailings/materials into Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake having significant impact.

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