Spill at Mine Site Causes Imperial Metals Shares to Plunge

Joel Cuttiford
|Aug 6|magazine9 min read

A sizable pond holding waste matter at the Mount Polley copper and gold mine in central B.C. broke open on Monday, spilling a gray sludge of materials into waterways and washing out a nearby road.

It was later confirmed that more than a billion gallons of waste had spilled into rivers and creeks in the Cariboo region, making the water supply unsafe for hundreds of residents to drink.  Tailings ponds from mineral mines store a mix of water, chemicals and mineral deposits leftover from mining operations.  A state of emergency has been declared for the area.

Imperial Metals Corp., which owns the mine, said in a release that the breach had stabilized and that no deaths or injuries had been reported.  Subsequently, the company’s shares plunged more than forty percent.

“We are deeply concerned and are working to mitigate immediate effects and understand the case,” the company said.

According to Imperial, the dam was operating within its design limits and workers onsite and monitoring equipment had no indication that the breach was coming.

The main flow of waste went into a nearby creek, formerly a four-foot stream that is now 150 feet wide.  One road has been washed out, and the district government has advised nearby residents to use bottled water until further notice.

The area is also home to Taseko Mines Ltd.’s New Prosperity, a proposed copper and gold mine that Canada’s government has blocked twice citing environmental concerns.  Taseko has challenged the decision in court.  Its shares were down 2.4 percent on the TSE on Tuesday.

Imperial said that the mine has been put on care and maintenance.  In the second quarter, the open pit operation reportedly produced 12.0 million pounds of copper, 11,867 ounces of gold and 33,813 ounces of silver.

The Vancouver Sun reported that concerns about the Mount Polley tailings pond date all the way back to 2011, when an environmental consulting firm commissioned to study the area released a report calling for an emergency plan for potential spills and advised that the pond be monitored.

A sizable pond holding waste matter at the Mount Polley copper and gold mine in central B.C. broke open on Monday, spilling a gray sludge of materials into waterways and washing out a nearby road.

It was later confirmed that more than a billion gallons of waste had spilled into rivers and creeks in the Cariboo region, making the water supply unsafe for hundreds of residents to drink.  Tailings ponds from mineral mines store a mix of water, chemicals and mineral deposits leftover from mining operations.  A state of emergency has been declared for the area.

Imperial Metals Corp., which owns the mine, said in a release that the breach had stabilized and that no deaths or injuries had been reported.  Subsequently, the company’s shares plunged more than forty percent.

“We are deeply concerned and are working to mitigate immediate effects and understand the case,” the company said.

According to Imperial, the dam was operating within its design limits and workers onsite and monitoring equipment had no indication that the breach was coming.

The main flow of waste went into a nearby creek, formerly a four-foot stream that is now 150 feet wide.  One road has been washed out, and the district government has advised nearby residents to use bottled water until further notice.

The area is also home to Taseko Mines Ltd.’s New Prosperity, a proposed copper and gold mine that Canada’s government has blocked twice citing environmental concerns.  Taseko has challenged the decision in court.  Its shares were down 2.4 percent on the TSX on Tuesday.

Imperial said that the mine has been put on care and maintenance.  In the second quarter, the open pit operation reportedly produced 12.0 million pounds of copper, 11,867 ounces of gold and 33,813 ounces of silver.

The Vancouver Sun reported that concerns about the Mount Polley tailings pond date all the way back to 2011, when an environmental consulting firm commissioned to study the area released a report calling for an emergency plan for potential spills and advised that the pond be monitored.