News Feature | August 12, 2014

Mining Disaster Leaves Canadians Without Drinking Water

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


A mining disaster in Canada recently prompted a water ban for hundreds of people. 

A breakdown at a mine dump, also known as a "tailings pond," sent 1.3 billion gallons of a contaminated mixture "gushing into Hazeltine Creek in British Columbia," ThinkProgress, a progressive blog, reported. "Tailings ponds from mineral mines store a mix of water, chemicals and ground-up minerals left over from mining operations."

The event might qualify as "one of North America's worst environmental disasters in decades," VICE Magazine reported. "The scale is hard to imagine: gray sludge, several feet deep, gushing with the force of a fire hose through streams and forest—coating everything in its path with ashy gunk."

Locals were horrified by the damage. 

“It’s an environmental disaster. It’s huge,” said Chief Ann Louie of the Williams Lake Indian Band, whose members reside near the spill, in the VICE report. “The spill has gone down Hazeltine Creek, which was 1.5 meters wide and is 150 meters wide... The damage done to that area, it’ll never come back. This will affect our First Nations for years and years.”

The disaster resulted in a water ban. 

"The flow of the mining waste, which can contain things like arsenic, mercury, and sulfur, uprooted trees on its way to the creek and forced a water ban for about 300 people who live in the region. That number could grow, as authorities determine just how far the waste has traveled," the ThinkProgress report said.

Imperial Metals, the mining company connected to the disaster, showed signs of remorse.

“If you asked me two weeks ago if that could happen, I would have said it couldn’t happen,” said Brian Kynoch, the company president, according to the Globe & Mail. “I know that for our company, it’s going to take a long time to earn the community’s trust back.”

Image credit: "coal-slurry-14," iwasaround © 2014, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: