Hodge: Passion for fighting old causes rekindled by mine spill

Sadly, neither of us was overly surprised when the tailings pond disaster at Imperial Mines took place in the Cariboo.

Tez and I had the wonderful pleasure of spending last weekend camped near the shores of Wood Lake while attending the annual Rod and Annie Bell barbecue.

Also among the myriad of interesting attendees at the event was long-time friend Lloyd Manchester.

Aside from being brothers-in-law for a number of years, ‘Munch’ and I spent some two decades fighting for environmental causes in B.C. and clear across Canada.

It was both an invigorating and frustrating experience as we went about trying to save and create parkland, protect eco-systems, change archaic environment related laws, and battle such issues as protecting rivers and waterways, pesticide registrations, clear-cut logging, and uranium mining.

While our lives were seriously threatened a few times and we paid the price of such work in several other ways over the years, I stand proud of the many things we accomplished or at least made people aware of.

Naturally as we sat by the water last weekend, we reminisced a bit about the ‘good ole days’ of traveling this fabulous province and country spreading our messages and butting heads with government, corporations, and industry folks who often valued profits over pristine wilderness and wildlife.

Lloyd and I recalled the many hours we spent on some key issues including legislation and regulations regarding mining and tailings guidelines and enforcement—only to regularly come up against deaf ears and monetary madness.

Occasionally we would succeed in some manner—enough to encourage us to continue the fight.

Sadly, neither of us was overly surprised when the Mount Polley tailings pond disaster at Imperial Mines took place in the Cariboo earlier this week.

When the tailings pond dam failed Monday, some 10 million cubic metres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of toxic silt made its way into Polley Lake and Quesnel Lake.

A summary of materials dumped into the pond last year, filed with Environment Canada, listed 326 tonnes of nickel, 400,000 kilograms of arsenic, 177,000 kilograms of lead and 18,400 tonnes of copper. Mercury is also expected to be in the soup.

Be certain that the tragedy currently unfolding at Quesnel Lake and the connected water and eco-systems is only going to get worse as the fallout from the breach of that huge pond continues.

I shudder to think of the cataclysmic destruction that will be the end result of mankind’s arrogant disrespect of nature in that beautiful part of our province.

Typically, now that the cows are out of the barn and running wild, the fingers are waving on who left the door open.

Sadly it really matters not to the flora and fauna that will never recover from the disaster.

Let’s be clear here. Responsibility belongs to both Imperial Metal and our provincial and federal governments on this environmental genocide.

Imperial management must take this fully on the chin for not willingly and respectfully ensuring enough safety was taken to secure the massive tailings pond—knowing full well and having been warned by at least one key employee, that the support perimeter needed work.

The ministries in charge of environment, as well as mines must also bear huge responsibilities for not doing a good enough job of not only monitoring and establishing firmer guidelines but also for not enforcing those guidelines with some intestinal fortitude.

Our provincial government has an embarrassingly pathetic track record of dealing firmly with industry and corporations on environmental issues choosing to kiss their butt rather than kick it when it comes to environmental standards, protocol an enforcement.

Like HOV lanes or driving with cell phones—you can have all the laws and bylaws in the world but if they are rarely enforced or offenders held accountable, nothing changes.

Handing out massive fines to such corporate environmental offenders after the fact does diddly-squat to fix the nightmare once it has taken place. It is always a case of too little, way too late.

So now we can anticipate months (years) of debate and lawyer costs over who did or did not do what, when and where.

Fingers will point in every direction and accountability will never find a landing place; however, one thing is certain—that part of the Cariboo will never be the same.

Any day now a smiley Premier Christy Clark  will finally make a public statement about the event and use big words and idle threats and promises to do something—but it will all prove as shallow as she is.

Only time will tell the tragic end result of this disaster.

While I am as shocked as anyone with this catastrophe—as mentioned before I am not surprised.

Hopefully now that B.C. can ‘boast’ one of the worst environmental disasters of all time on the continent—perhaps, just perhaps—governments and corporations will start to listen a little more to the new and upcoming watchdogs of our world and actually pay attention. All the apologies and fines in the world cannot fix stupid once it has happened.

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