The mayor of the Interior B.C. city of Williams Lake is worried about rising water levels in a containment pit at Mount Polley mine, the site of a 2014 spill of billions of litres of water.
Walt Cobb said Sunday that the water is within six metres of seeping into the surrounding area of the Quesnel River system – a threat that could lead to a mine shutdown that could affect about 200 jobs in his community.
Mr. Cobb is planning to restate his concerns at a news conference on Monday, hoping it will lead to public pressure that would urge the B.C. Environment Ministry to approve a discharge permit for the water resulting from the operations of the gold and copper mine.
Mr. Cobb said in an interview Sunday that the permit has been delayed at least three times since October.
"This delay is unacceptable," he said.
He said a shutdown of the mine operated by Imperial Metals could come within three weeks. "We don't want to get there," he said.
On Sunday, an Environment Ministry spokesperson said they expect a decision on the matter by the end of November based on submissions from varied experts.
The official, speaking on background, said the buildup is within seven metres of the limit and not expected to exceed that level before next April.
In August, 2014, a breach led to a flow of 4.5 billion litres of slurry and 10 billion litres of water into Polley Lake.
Last summer's flood closed the mine, but it has resumed partial operation in November and is now running at half capacity.
In a weekend statement, the Soda Creek and Williams Lake Indian bands called for swift action to deal with the "current threat" and a halt in escalating production until the risks are addressed.
"The government and the company knew that serious concerns remained, including an unresolved short-term water discharge plan, yet just as when the first dam was permitted, they ignored us right up to the end because they wanted this mine running again as soon as possible," Ann Louie, chief of the Williams Lake Indian Band, said in the statement