Mount Polley Mining Corporation says it's working as fast as it safely can to clean up last month's massive spill, but B.C.'s Ministry of Environment maintains the progress made by the company is "not satisfactory."
The tailings pond at the Mount Polley copper and gold mine breached on Aug. 4, sending millions of cubic metres of waste into central B.C. creeks and lakes. The spill prompted days of water-use bans for hundreds of people and the province has said it could have adverse effects on marine life.
The ministry earlier this week sent Mount Polley a non-compliance letter, in which it expressed concern rain could trigger further discharge of mining waste. The letter said the ministry believed the mine could was not working quickly enough to protect the environment.
But, in a six-page response to the province that outlines the efforts to date, Mount Polley says it has worked "diligently" despite substantial safety and logistical challenges.
"We are and remain dedicated to prompt and appropriate compliance measures, and we have devoted and continue to devote all necessary resources to this effort. We do so with a strong regard for human health and safety and to prevent further incidents that would pose cause for concern," says the letter from the mine to the ministry, which is signed by general manager Dale Reimer.
Mount Polley is owned by Imperial Metals Corporation.
The letter says the mine has been hard at work on sediment and water discharge control since the day after the spill. It says the mine quickly mobilized its mining crew to operate trucks and bulldozers to begin construction of access to the repair area. However, it says it could not allow the vehicles to move into the area until it was stabilized.
The letter says Mount Polley was told by the Ministry on Aug. 10 that the government was "generally satisfied" with the mine's action plan.
The letter says the mine on Aug. 29 provided the ministry a copy of an environmental work plan. The letter says the mine has provided weekly written and daily oral updates to the ministry since shortly after the spill.
The letter, at one point, appears to express frustration with the ministry's response time. It says seeding efforts were delayed for a week, while the ministry debated whether to go ahead and considered consulting a special committee. The letter does not say why the seeding needed to be carried out.
A Ministry of Environment spokesman told the Globe the province acknowledges the company has made some progress in its pollution abatement efforts.
"However, in the estimation of Ministry of Environment staff, progress made by the company is not satisfactory at this point," the e-mail said.
Critics have said the province itself was too slow to respond to the spill. It has since announced an independent investigation into the spill, and ordered outside inspections at every other B.C. tailings pond.