A Wildlife Monitoring Plan has been implemented in the Hazeltine Creek corridor, utilizing wildlife cameras to build an inventory of animals that are using the corridor to support local wildlife studies.
Environmental monitoring programs and closure research projects at Mount Polley mine site have successfully reached several milestones since inception in 2014. Post-remediation monitoring in lower Hazeltine Creek and Edney Creek have reported significant improvement in water quality to promote increased aquatic habitation. All areas that were disturbed by the 2020 construction near Hazeltine and Edney Creek were seeded with a variety of local, non-invasive vegetation comprised of Mountain Brome, Native Red Fescue, Rocky Mountain Fescue, Bluebunch Wheatgrass, Blue Wildrye, Fireweed, and Big Leaf Lupine. This selective plant growth not only helps re-introduce wildlife usage in the area but, creates a suitable habitat for a diverse range of wildlife activities from nesting birds to foraging and predator/prey interactions. To better understand the impacts and implications of these programs and remediation efforts on Mount Polley as well as potentially other mine sites, specialized wildlife cameras have been installed for mammal species monitoring. As a result, an inventory of identified species including numerous bird species and even some large insects within the Hazeltine Creek corridor by remote cameras have captured a library collection of raw footage.
The gallery below offers a preview to the library of photos retrieved by on-site staff.
In addition to creating a mammal inventory, the study was also intended to identify whether wildlife usage was negatively impacted following the dam incident. However, review of the current inventory suggests that usage was not impaired. On the ground, staff are also seeing a prevalence of locally known mammal species such as bears, mule deer, and moose.
Although it is a little too early to confirm any trends, photos of wolverine, which are quite uncommon in the area, also suggests that the remediation efforts have potentially created an environment that is becoming well received by a more diverse group of terrestrial lifeforms and continues to be home to the local ecosystem entirety.
The team will continue to conduct non-intrusive, wildlife research monitoring to better understand local animal activity and behaviour. Everyone on site shares their wildlife observations with staff, which are recorded in a wildlife tracking table. Mount Polley’s team are committed to completing the in-stream work this year as well as the remaining terrestrial remediation within the next two years. Updates on the remediation work at Mount Polley mine are available in the quarterly Community Update newsletters on mountpolley.com.
After seven years of remediation work in Hazeltine Creek in response to the 2014 tailings dam breach, the salmon have returned to the creek to spawn. In stream work was completed in late August this year, just in time for the sockeye migration in the region.
In the early stages of the Mount Polley remediation effort, 40 thousand truckloads of rock were used to build a foundation channel along Hazeltine Creek from Polley Lake to Quesnel Lake. Next, section by section, the remediation team modified the initial channel and added sinuosity and habitat features to provide instream cover for fish, enhancing the habitat value. These features included spawning platforms, pools, riffles, rock boulder clusters, root wads, and logs.
The biological design for habitat features was developed collaboratively with Mount Polley’s technical experts, Williams Lake First Nation, Xatśūll First Nation, and at the regulatory level, with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. Collectively the group is referred to as the “Habitat Remediation Working Group.”
Over the past few weeks over 100 sockeye salmon adults have returned to Hazeltine Creek to spawn. “The focus of the Hazeltine Creek remediation effort at Mount Polley has been to repair and rehabilitate Hazeltine Creek so that it becomes a self-sustaining, productive fish habitat.” said Brian Kynoch, President of Imperial Metals.
Trout have been using portions of the rehabilitated creek to spawn since 2017, and now another major milestone has been achieved with the return of sockeye salmon to the creek. The presence of the sockeye salmon and various other fish species signals that the remedial work has begun to restore ecological function. This is not only evident in the aquatic environment but also evident across the terrestrial landscape where plant communities are developing, and abundant wildlife is observed. It is expected that as both the aquatic and the terrestrial ecosystems mature, further ecological function will emerge, and the site will host an even broader array of organisms.
Habitat modelling reveals four times more juvenile fish are expected in Hazeltine Creek post-remediation efforts
Mount Polley Mining Corporation is pleased to report that fish populations are thriving at Mount Polley. Further, the current habitat of upper Hazeltine Creek is over 1.5 times more likely to spawn fish than the pre-breach habitat. A recent report prepared by Golder, Mount Polley’s Environmental Consultant, reveals that the fish population in Hazeltine Creek is increasing as a result of the remediation efforts made by the Mount Polley Habitat Remediation Working Group* since 2014. Computer modelling of the fish population projects that there could be up to four times more juvenile trout in Hazeltine Creek in 2031 than in 2014.
“By May 2015 the water in Hazeltine Creek was running clear, and the bugs – invertebrates that provide food for fish – were starting to grow in the creek, so it was decided that the installation of new fish habitat could begin and this work started in 2016,” stated Lee Nikl, Principal and Senior Environmental Scientist – Mine Water and Environment Group at Golder. “By late 2017, fish were let back into the creek.”
We expect there to be almost twice as many juvenile trout in Hazeltine Creek by 2022. The new report uncovers that this is an outcome of the remediated habitat features in the creek, as well as the unobstructed conditions for upstream passage of fish, which are expected to persist in the long term. The Habitat Remediation Working Group has been guiding and overseeing habitat remediation since 2014 and “the design objectives and the designs themselves are the outcome of collaborative design with the Habitat Remediation Working Group”, said Nikl. “The focus of the remediation effort at Mount Polley has been to repair and rehabilitate Hazeltine Creek so that it becomes a self-sustaining, productive fish habitat.” said Brian Kynoch, President of Imperial Metals.
Happy Holidays – we hope that everyone enjoyed a joyous holiday season and wish you all the best for 2021.
A Covid-19 update – Mount Polley employees continue to take additional precautions to minimize the risks of COVID19 transmission and illness as recommended by the Provincial Health Officer. All personnel continued to report to work in Q4.
Employees and site visitors are required to sign off on a daily COVID-19 Questionnaire before entering the site and will be turned away if showing symptoms of illness.
Mount Polley Mine: Care and Maintenance
Bulletins regarding the mines care and maintenance:
The environmental monitoring programs continue and are on track
Closure research projects continue as planned
Remediation of Hazeltine Creek continued at Lower Hazeltine, projected to be complete in 2021
Workforce consists of thirteen staff plus additional contractors
Site water management continues, including the near-continuous operation of the water treatment plant
Exploration Geological Mapping of new areas on mine site
CANMAG shipping magnetite
Environmental Monitoring Update
Environmental team: Matt O’Leary, Gabriel Holmes, Kala Ivens, Alicia Lalonde (DWB Consultant), Kim Sandy, Don Parsons (Corporate Office)
Kimberly Sandy was hired on November 16 as the newest member of the Mount Polley environmental team. She has been hired as an Environmental Technician and extensive on-site training is underway.
New ENV Permit
A new ENV permit 11678 was issued on December 31, 2020 that incorporates conditions from a previous consent order because of ongoing appeals of conditions within the permit as issued on February 1, 2020.
Weekly WTP water quality sampling including monthly/quarterly toxicity sampling
Monthly water quality sampling at Hazeltine Creek
Monthly & Quarterly water quality sampling of surface & mine affected waters including groundwater, mine seepage
Polley Lake, Bootjack Lake, & Quesnel Lake water quality sampling
All critical ditches, sumps, ponds, and pipeline inspections
Monthly/quarterly Waste Inspections
Continued investigation of unauthorized discharges and exceedances
Reporting—monthly, quarterly, investigations
Monitoring planning as per the Comprehensive Environmental Management Plan (CEMP) and ENV Permit 11678
Specialized Environmentally Related Work
During the course of the year, we enlist the help of numerous environmental consulting companies to complete some of the specialized components of the environmental monitoring done at Mount Polley Mine. Examples include bird song surveys or benthic and invertebrate studies in the remediated areas of Hazeltine Creek. Most of our consultants completing specialized environmental work have wrapped up their field seasons and are processing data and interpreting their field observations in preparation for delivering their reports. Some of these reports satisfy CEMP requirements and some are stand alone studies. The results of this work can be found in the upcoming Mount Polley Mine Annual Environmental Report. Some of the companies that we engage with include Golder Associates Ltd, Minnow Environmental Inc., DWB Consulting Services Ltd., Ensero Solutions, and Watersmith.
Environmental monitoring is conducted in accordance with the Environmental Management Act (EMA) Permit 11678 and the approved Comprehensive Environmental Monitoring Plan (CEMP) requirements.
MPMC Water Treatment Plant (WTP) Update
In Quarter 4, the total treated water discharged to Quesnel Lake was ~1,592,581 mᵌ with an average discharge rate of ~0.2mᵌ/second.
The plant operated continuously for most of Quarter 4. Water quality samples were collected weekly at the Water Treatment Plant (WTP) at the influent (E19) and effluent (HAD-3) sites throughout the quarter. To further optimize the plant operations the WTP operators have been utilizing a Hanna Multiparameter Photometer to assess influent and effluent copper concentrations to help guide daily plant operations. We are developing a data set comparing the field readings to the lab results to verify the reliability of the instrument.
On November 11, 2020, a permit exceedance for elevated copper was observed at the WTP. Through the course of the resulting investigation, the plant was shut down for four days, additional samples were collected (in recirculation mode), a site contact water review was completed, the source of copper was identified, plant operations and site conditions were assessed key findings were identified and operational recommendations were compiled. The plant resumed normal operation on November 27, 2020.
On October 26, 2020, MPMC requested a bypass of the authorized works (the WTP) to discharge mine site contact water that is being stored in the Springer Pit without active treatment. Through the course of the last year, the water quality in the pit has improved greatly and meets the end of pipe permit limits as indicated by the sample results taken during on-site monitoring. This is the result of the water clarifying and passive in-situ treatment occurring in the pit. The bypass request also included water from the Tailings Storage Facility (TSF) and the Cariboo Pit provided that they meet the end of pipe permit limits. Significant water quality fluctuations are not expected because of the single-source nature of the bypass. Monitoring is planned to increase in the Springer Pit to provide early warning of water quality changes and will remain at the same frequency at the end of the pipe.
Another driver for this request is to aid MPMC in eliminating surplus water currently being stored on site. The quantity of water stored on-site currently exceeds “Best Practices” as advised by the Tailings Storage Facility Engineer of Record. A bypass authorization will enable MPMC to increase discharge volumes while still meeting permit limits and BC Water Quality Guidelines. This will also limit year-over-year accumulation of stored water on site. A similar bypass authorization request was submitted by MPMC in 2016 and approved by the British Columbia Ministry of Environment (MoE) on March 11, 2016.
MPMC Water Treatment Plant (WTP) Update-Graph
Hazeltine/Edney Creek Remediation
Remediation work was limited in Q4 to ground cover seeding and seed collection efforts. All areas that were disturbed by the 2020 construction near Hazeltine and Edney Creek were seeded. Additional Sitka Alder and Cattail seeds were collected for distribution. The native ground cover seed blend that is used in the remediation is comprised of Mountain Brome, Native Red Fescue, Rocky Mountain Fescue, Bluebunch Wheatgrass, Blue Wildrye, Fireweed, and Big Leaf Lupine.
In late 2019, a comprehensive exploration program consisting of a geochemical MMI-soil sample survey and a geophysical 3D-IP survey was carried out over the Frypan/Morehead area located west and north of the Mount Polley mine. The target area is roughly 3 by 3 kilometers in size, largely till covered and shows a similar magnetic response to that obtained over the Mount Polley mine host rock of monzonite and hydrothermally altered monzonite breccia pipes.
In June 2020, an additional 3D-IP survey was conducted over the Mount Polley mine site to identify the geophysical response of the known mineralization.
Interpretation of the new geophysical data sets led to numerous high-priority targets both in the Frypan/Morehead area and on the mine site.
A drill program was planned to test the new high-priority targets on and off the mine site and to expand zones of known mineralization on the mine site. The first phase of drilling was carried out at the end of 2020.
Due to prolonged delays with assay labs, the program is waiting for results before drillings resume.
Quarter 4, 2020
Public Liaison Committee (PLC) Meeting via conference call
February 3, 2020
Public Liaison Committee (PLC) Meeting via conference call
Environmental monitoring programs and closure research projects at Mount
Polley mine site continue as planned. Remediation
construction at the lower Hazeltine Creek and Edney Creek began this summer.
Mount Polley staff, with assistance from Golder Associates Ltd., have begun development
of the 2022 Water Management Plan.
include regular water quality and toxicity sampling at:
water treatment plant (WTP)
surface waters of Polley Lake, Bootjack Lake, Hazeltine
Creek, Edney Creek & Quesnel Lake
mine contact waters including groundwater &
mine seepage with flow rates
Regular inspections of
all critical ditches, sumps, ponds, pumping systems and pipelines.
Ongoing surveys and
spawning activity in Hazeltine & Edney Creeks
remediated terrestrial habitats; vegetation growth, nesting sites and wildlife usage
aquatic habitats; fish population & tissue, zooplankton, phytoplankton, benthic invertebrates and sediments in Bootjack, Polley & Quesnel Lakes
dilution modelling of the Quesnel Lake discharge
semi-passive and passive water treatment options for closure which include a constructed wetland treatment system pilot study and a saturated rock fill bench scale test
The remediation of Hazeltine Creek has been planned and advanced through the direct collaboration of Mount Polley mine employees, government agencies, First Nations and their technical advisors. This collective is called the Habitat Remediation Working Group (HRWG).
Recently, members of Mount Polley mine, Golder Associates Ltd, FLNRO (Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development) and the Xatśūll First Nation attended a September 2020 HRWG tour.
On the tour the HRWG inspected the construction of habitat features in Lower Hazeltine Creek. The group also inspected the weir and fish ladder at Polley Lake, the functioning spawning habitat in Upper Hazeltine Creek and the terrestrial plant growth in Polley Flats.
The group viewed all stages of remediation, from installation of habitat features to a remediated ecosystem in Upper Hazeltine Creek that is maturing into a self-sustaining landscape used by all manners of life forms.
Discussions on the tour included: • Local nursery plant sources; • Local contractors support in the remediation efforts; • Reflections on how far the remediation has advanced; • Reopening plans for the mine; • Plans for the continued use of the weir on Polley Lake for flood control and fish rearing in Hazeltine Creek until the plants in the terrestrial flood plain mature; and • In stream habitat features installed are potentially superior to those that existed pre-2014.
Below are some photos from the tour (September 2020).
After the spill, a population monitoring program on Polley Lake indicated there had probably been a reduction in the age class of the population of Rainbow Trout (as upper Hazeltine Creek was the main spawning area for these trout). There was spawning observed in Frypan Creek at the north end of Polley Lake, however it was noted to be a much smaller habitat. The Mount Polley Environmental Team (MPET) recognized it was important to allow the fish to spawn in Hazeltine Creek, but the Habitat Remediation Working Group (HRWG) had concerns whether the spawn in the reconstructed Hazeltine Creek would be successful.
The MPET developed a backup plan. With guidance provided by Minnow Environmental and David Petkovich (Aqua-culturist), over 11,000 Rainbow Trout fry were raised in an on-site fish hatchery in spring 2018. Eggs were harvested and fertilized from some of the local Rainbow Trout that had returned to upper Hazeltine Creek to spawn.
The fertilized eggs were incubated in trays so temperature, flow and dissolved oxygen levels could be regularly monitored. Water intake was sourced from below the thermocline in Polley Lake in order to maintain cooler water temperatures.
Within two months, the eggs hatched into alevins (yolk-sac fry) and within another two weeks the yolk sacs were completely absorbed. Throughout the incubation stage the eggs were counted, and unfertilized eggs removed.
The fry were then transferred from the incubation trays to shallow rearing tanks. When the fish reached their target biomass, they were transferred into deeper rearing tanks, and from there released into the Polley Lake watershed.
The MPET and Minnow Environmental released over 11,100 Rainbow trout fry from the hatchery into Polley Lake on September 25 and 26, 2018. The adipose fins from each fry were clipped as a means of tagging (identification). On the second day, students, parents and a teacher from Columneetza Middle School’s Greenologists / Enviro Club based in Williams Lake assisted with the Rainbow Trout fry release
Mount Polley strongly encourages Polley Lake fishers to report if they catch fish with a clipped adipose fin to firstname.lastname@example.org. This will help the MPET determine how successfully the hatchery trout are surviving. Thank you!
In 2018 a milestone was celebrated by the Mount Polley Environmental Team (MPET) when the efforts of the remediation work rebuilding Hazeltine Creek witnessed the return of Rainbow Trout, Redside Shiners and Long Nose Suckers to the rebuilt part of the creek.
After the August 2014 tailings spill, fish from Polley Lake were prevented from entering Hazeltine Creek by fish fences above the Polley Lake Weir, while the habitat underwent reconstruction. During the winter of 2014-2015, the creek channel was cleaned up, tailings and debris removed, and a new Hazeltine Creek channel was built and rocked-in.
In April 2015, the Habitat
Remediation Working Group (HRWG*), including the T’exelc
First Nation (Williams Lake First Nation) and Xatśūll First Nation (Soda Creek
Indian Band) and their consultants, and Mount Polley Mining Corporation
(MPMC) representatives and their consultants (Envirowest and Golder), began discussing
options for constructing new fish habitat in upper Hazeltine Creek, and
requirements MPMC would need to meet in order for fish to be allowed to return
to the creek.
*HRWG also includes representatives of the federal
Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the provincial Ministry of Environment, and
the provincial Ministry of Forest Lands and Natural Resource Operations, both
water stewardship and fisheries sections.
Mount Polley employees, consultants, contractors, First Nations and community partners began ecological remediation work on Hazeltine Creek in 2015. By May 2015 the water in Hazeltine was running clear, and the bugs (invertebrates that provide food for fish) were starting to grow in the creek, so it was decided that the installation of new fish habitat could begin and this work started in 2016.
HRWG members looked at historical records to
determine what the local conditions were before the spill, and remediation
planning was based on that information. The planning was also constrained by the
configuration of the constructed rocked-in channel. The group agreed to a field
fit approach for the remediation. Conceptual designs were developed by Mount
Polley and their consultants, and the plans were reviewed by the HRWG.
The design approach was to naturalize the rocked-in channel by adding sinuosity (curves and bends), building a sequence of pools, riffles and weirs, and installing boulders, large woody debris and gravel at the bottom of the creek, to provide appropriate spawning and rearing habitat for the fish known to have used upper Hazeltine Creek before the spill, particularly Rainbow Trout, an important species in Polley Lake.
After two years of habitat construction (2016-2017)
approximately 2.5 km of spawning and rearing habitat was completed in the upper
part of Hazeltine creek from the outlet of Polley Lake to the Gavin Lake Road
Bridge. In late 2017, the MPET believed conditions were right to let the fish
back into the creek. There was habitat, flowing water, and food, and the water
quality met aquatic guidelines.
In December 2017, the HRWG began
detailed discussions on the approach to allowing the Rainbow Trout back into
Hazeltine Creek. Discussion included requirements for fish monitoring, water
quality, sediment quality, habitat quality and quantity, Polley Lake access and
egress etc, and the permits and licenses that Mount Polley would have to apply
for and comply with from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource
Operations and Rural Development Water Stewardship Group.
In March 2018, new fish fences were
installed in Hazeltine Creek approximately 2.6 km from the outlet of Polley
Lake to prevent fish from going further downstream than the area where habitat
reconstruction have been completed. On April 26, 2018, the fish fences at the
outlet of Polley Lake to Hazeltine Creek were removed and the Rainbow Trout
once again had access to the first 2.6 km of upper Hazeltine Creek.
Note: the lower part of Hazeltine Creek includes a
steep rock canyon that is a natural barrier preventing Quesnel Lake fish from
entering middle and upper Hazeltine Creek and Polley Lake. However, in the
natural creek system, fish from Polley Lake can be swept down the creek into
Quesnel Lake once all the fish habitat reconstruction is completed and fish
fences are removed.
In addition to ingress into Hazeltine Creek, the fish also needed to be able to return to Polley Lake. This required that a fishway (ladder) be built for the fish to bypass the Polley Lake Weir water control structure. An engineered fishway was installed by Mount Polley maintenance staff at the Polley Lake weir and the flows are monitored to properly maintain water levels for fish passage. The fishway was designed so the flow can be adapted to seasonal changes.
Fish monitoring was intense in 2018. MPET worked
with Minnow Environmental conducting weekly surveys of the fish populations to track
the 2018 spawn and fish activity. The surveys included counting fish at
established monitoring stations and pools, and observing how the fish used the
creek (i.e. seeking shelter under woody debris or behind boulders). Temperature
data and dissolved oxygen levels were also monitored in Hazeltine Creek.
Results of the 2018 Hazeltine Creek fish re-introduction were very impressive. Fish monitors estimated almost 5,000 Rainbow Trout accessed the creek to spawn in spring 2018. The spawn was successful. A spawning survey in July 2018 observed over 18,600 Rainbow Trout in upper Hazeltine Creek, the majority being from the 2018 spawn.
The area around Likely has a long and fascinating
history of placer mining. Placer mining refers to mining materials (mostly
gold) deposited in ancient stream beds that are still largely unconsolidated (i.e.
relatively loose materials).
Some of the earliest gold discoveries in the area were made in 1859, one in the Horsefly River, and one in the Dancing Bill Gulch. The latter became known as the China Pit and then the Bullion Pit, and is located just downstream of Likely on the west side of the Quesnel River. The Bullion Pit is now a local historic site with a public walking trail.
Placer gold was also discovered near the mouth of
Keithley Creek on the Cariboo River about 12 km upstream from Quesnel Forks in
July 1860. Other significant discoveries were subsequently made just 4 km south
of Likely on Cedar Creek, and in Quesnel River itself.
In 1897, the Golden River Canal Co. decided to build a dam across the Quesnel River at the outlet from Quesnel Lake in order to block the river and be able to work the gravels from the bottom of the river. The tent town that developed on the site was known as ‘Quesnel Dam’. In 1920, the dam was dynamited and the remnants of the dam can be seen just north of the Likely Bridge in Likely. After the removal of the dam, the residents decided to rename the town ‘Likely’ after a local prospector, John Likely.
The Bullion Pit ulimately became a very significant gold producer in the area. BC Minfile report number 093A 025 states that “In 1897, the Consolidated Hydraulic Mining Company commenced full scale operations and between 1898 and 1902, the company processed 5,912,700 cubic metres of mixed materials, recovering 1,402,316 grams of gold at a recoverable grade of 0.132 grams per tonne gold… Estimations indicate that a total of 200 million tonnes of material were removed by hydraulic methods and 5.463 million grams (175,644 ounces) of gold were produced.” Indications are that much of this material was discharged directly into the Quesnel River.
The shortage of water in the early 1900s led the operators of the Bullion Pit to construct a number of water control and diversion works on local streams and lakes to gather water for the hydraulic operations at the pit. Photos from the BC archives, including ones featured in the TV program “Gold Trails and Ghost Towns – The Bullion Pit episode”, document weirs and diversion ditches built on Polley Lake and Hazeltine Creek and other creeks in the area.
This Facebook page gives regular updates on the areas in BC that were part of the mine’s early gold mining history.
Many placer mines continue to operate in the area around Likely, including near Quesnel Forks. Quesnel Forks is a restored ghost town located 12 km outside of Likely with a rich mining history and is also worth a visit. It is situated at the point where Cariboo River meets the Quesnel River, and features a beautiful campground and a number of restored and partially restored old buildings.
The remediation effort at Mount Polley is ongoing; however, we are very proud of the major milestones that have been completed to-date.
Repair of lower Edney Creek, re-establishment of link to Quesnel Lake and installation of new fish habitat for spawners from Quesnel Lake, completed in spring 2015, with evidence of successful spawning by Interior Coho, Kokanee and Sockeye Salmon.
Completion of construction of a new Hazeltine Creek channel in May 2015, to control erosion and provide base for remediation of the creek itself and the creek valley.
Ongoing planting of native trees and shrubs in the riparian and upland areas along the creek, now totally more than 600,000 trees and shrubs planted.
Installation of over 6 kilometres of new fish spawning and rearing habitat in upper to middle Hazeltine Creek. Evidence of successful 2018 and 2019 Rainbow trout spawning in upper Hazeltine Creek.
Clean-up and repair of 400 metres of Quesnel Lake shoreline, including placement of new fish spawning gravels.
Re-establishment of wetlands in the Polley Flats area adjacent to the repaired TSF.