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Remediation

September site tour with the Habitat Remediation Working Group

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).

Hazeltine Creek Reach One and revegetated riparian areas looking upstream toward Polley Lake.
Hazeltine Creek Reach One and revegetated riparian areas looking upstream toward Polley Lake.
James Ogilvie, Senior Water Resources Engineer at Golder Associates, describes functionality of reconstructed portions of Hazeltine Creek Reach One
Golder Associates Water Resources Engineer explains functionality of reconstructed portions of Hazeltine Creek Reach One
Hazeltine Creek Reach One and revegetated riparian areas looking downstream
Hazeltine Creek Reach One and revegetated riparian areas looking downstream
Categories
Remediation

Remediation continues at Mount Polley Mine site

Please check out this write-up by the Soda Creek First Nations on the remediation work being done at Mount Polley and the tour completed by South Creek Indian Band (SCIB).

Remediation continues at Mt Polley Mine site (PDF)

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Remediation

Experts recommend leaving tailings in Quesnel Lake

Lately we have received questions about the water quality at Quesnel Lake, so here are a few Q&A’s which address this subject.

First, what it means to conduct remediation?

According to the BC Environmental Management Act, “remediation” means action to eliminate, limit, correct, counteract, mitigate or remove any contaminant or the adverse effects on the environment or human health of any contaminant.

At Mount Polley, using the results of the detailed site investigations, and the human health and ecological risk assessments, the goal of the mine’s environmental remediation work is to repair and rehabilitate the areas impacted by the tailings spill such that they are on a path to self-sustaining ecological processes that result in productive and connected habitats for aquatic and terrestrial species.

As the impacts of the spill were determined to be primarily physical and not chemical, this has meant that the focus of the work has been on repairing and rebuilding habitats. 

Where can I find data about the water quality in Quesnel Lake?

The BC government website hosts an interactive map of surface water monitoring sites in the Province which gives access to results of water sampling and analyses, including Quesnel Lake and other surface water sites around the area of the mine. 

Why was the decision made to leave the tailings at the bottom of Quesnel Lake?

Research and monitoring of the physical and chemical stability of the tailings on the bottom of Quesnel Lake indicate that they are not causing pollution and studies of the bottom-dwelling (benthic) organisms have shown that they are slowly recolonizing the lake bottom as native sediment slowly deposits on top of the organic-poor tailings, bringing organic matter to the lake floor. 

After completing a Net Environmental Benefit (NEB) assessment, experts recommended that the best approach for remediation of the tailings in Quesnel Lake was to leave them alone and cause no further disturbance.

The experts determined that any attempt to remove the tailings could significantly disrupt the present ecosystem and set back the progress that had already occurred.

Remediation at Mount Polley is all about creating the conditions for successful natural recovery, and not doing more damage.

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Community Remediation

Mount Polley built and managed an on-site fish hatchery in 2018

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.

Egg trays in Mount Polley on-site Rainbow Trout hatchery [2018]
Egg trays in Mount Polley on-site Rainbow Trout hatchery [2018]

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.

Fish tray showing Rainbow Trout eggs hatching [June 2018]
Fish tray showing Rainbow Trout eggs hatching [June 2018]
Rainbow Trout fry in shallow ponding tanks [early July 2018]
Rainbow Trout fry in shallow ponding tanks [early July 2018]

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.

Mount Polley hatchery rearing tanks. [summer 2018]
Mount Polley hatchery rearing tanks. [summer 2018]

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 gabe.holmes@mountpolley.com. This will help the MPET determine how successfully the hatchery trout are surviving. Thank you!

Categories
Community Remediation

Mount Polley Remediation Leader Named CIM Distinguished Lecturer

Imperial congratulations to Dr. ‘Lyn Anglin on being named a recipient of the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum’s (CIM) Distinguished Lecturer award.  The CIM Awards honour the mining industry’s “finest for their outstanding contributions in various fields. Their achievements and dedication are what make Canada’s global mineral industry a force to be reckoned with.”

Due to her extensive experience in geoscience research and engagement with the public, Dr. Anglin was hired as Imperial’s Chief Scientific Officer in 2014 to assist with the response to the Mount Polley tailings spill.

During ‘Lyn’s tenure, she provided technical advice to the Company’s spill response team, and liaised with First Nations, local communities, government regulators and industry associations regarding the spill response and progress on remediation.

You can read more about the remediation efforts here and commonly asked questions regarding the Mount Polley tailings spill here.

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Remediation

Major milestones of Mount Polley’s environmental remediation efforts to date

The remediation effort at Mount Polley is ongoing; however, we are very proud of the major milestones that have been completed to-date.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Clean-up and repair of 400 metres of Quesnel Lake shoreline, including placement of new fish spawning gravels.
  6. Re-establishment of wetlands in the Polley Flats area adjacent to the repaired TSF.
Hazeltine Creek aerial view
Hazeltine Creek recovery work. An aerial view of the environmental remediation efforts captured by a drone.
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Community Remediation

Staying connected to the community during Mount Polley’s remediation

Did you know that over the past six years, over 39 community meetings have been organized and hosted by Mount Polley management and environmental staff?

Mount Polley is committed to the environment and to ensuring the community is kept up to date on remediation efforts.

Over 24 meetings have been held in Likely, the community in closest proximity to the Mount Polley mine. Meetings have also been held in the communities of Quesnel, Horsefly, Big Lake and Williams Lake.

These meetings provide an opportunity for local residents to learn about the activities and progress of the remediation work and research programs being conducted, and the opportunity to engage and ask questions.

There is still work being done to complete the rebuilding of fish habitat in Hazeltine Creek. The rebuilding and revegetating of the lower part of the creek will be the last part of the remediation work to be done.

Guest speakers have included consultants and representatives from provincial Ministries who help educate the local community about environmental remediation.

Furthermore Mount Polley has established The Mount Polley Mine Public Liaison Committee (PLC).The PLC is comprised of representatives from the local communities of Likely, Big Lake, Horsefly and Williams Lake, local First Nations, government ministries, consultants and mine staff.

Meetings are held on a quarterly basis, with the purpose to share information about activities at the mine site with the PLC members, who are there as representatives of their communities. The agenda for each meeting includes updates on mine operations, environmental monitoring, and remediation. There is also a roundtable discussion at each meeting for all participants to pose questions and discuss any community concerns.

Categories
Remediation

The Mount Polley Team: Maintaining a Healthy Environment

Mout Polley continues to restore the environment during its current care and maintenance phase.

With 14 staff members working at the Mount Polley site, as well as several contractors, the remediation team at Mount Polley continues to work diligently to restore habitats, ecosystem and the environment at Mount Polley and affected sites.

The Mount Polley team includes environmental staff ensuring environmental recovery.  DWB Consulting Services Ltd. is also on site to provide quality control and assurance.

Some monitoring activities taking place during Mount Polley’s continued remediation include water sampling, water treatment plant sampling, plankton sampling, fish population monitoring, Hazeltine Creek monitoring and fish surveys.

Sockeye salmon in Edney Creek as a result of Mount Polley remediation
Salmon and trout are repopulating Edney Creek during Mount Polley remediation efforts.

Our efforts have proved successful to-date! Several sockeye salmon were observed in Edney Creek. Furthermore, Rainbow Trout, Coho Salmon, Lon Nose Dace and Burbot have also been identified.

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Video

Mount Polley Remediation Story

This is the story of Mount Polley Remedition – from tailings spill to environmental recovery

Katie: “My name is Katie McMahen. I was born and raised here in Williams Lake and I was a member of the environmental team here at Mount Polley for a number of years. Although it was a really devastating event, as scientists we want to learn what we can out of this work that’s going on and so we’re studying methods for restoring functioning forest ecosystems, methods for rehabilitating the soil, and trying to improve best practices, really. Since day one, we’ve been doing a ton of environmental monitoring and really prioritizing fixing up the creek.

“So I love the forest, and I love working and rehabilitating the forest, so some of the coolest work we’ve been doing is not just the replanting of trees, but trying to trying to create the right conditions for those trees to thrive. So, managing the tailings, doing some techniques to really make nice little sites for the trees to grow and so that they had the proper soil conditions.”

Mount Polley remediation staff on site near Hazeltine Creek
Mount Polley staff have been working diligently for years to restore habitats, ecosystems, and the environment at Mount Polley and affected sites. The Mount Polley Remediation story is one of turn-around, innovation, and Canadian pride.

Gabriel: “My name is Gabriel Holmes, and I grew up in Likely, British Columbia, and I’m an environmental technician here, I’ve worked here since 2011. I’m really proud of reintroducing the fish into the creeks – there’s a whole bunch of things I could go on and on – but reintroducing fish into Hazeltine Creek was a real milestone, the success of the spawning last year of the rainbow trout and Hazeltine Creek, a real milestone. The vegetative communities that are developing in our terrestrial landscapes in riparian areas and then of course this year, seeing a number of sockeye salmon in Edney Creek. I’m really proud to see that occur because that’s one of our end goals that we were trying to accomplish and to see them utilizing the system today, it’s fantastic.”

Katie: “I’m super proud of the work that we’ve done here. One of the biggest challenges has just been the scale of the work that we’ve had to do, and so considering it’s only five years now since the breach, just the sheer amount of work that’s been done in those five years is amazing. When I look back it feels like way longer because I can’t believe how much we’ve done.

“We’ve really set a high precedent for what needs to happen following an incident like this and that the type of work that can be done and should be done to clean up sites. There’s a lot of information that needs to get out there about what what’s the actual environmental conditions and the fact that we have thriving rainbow trout in the creek and tons of wildlife and animals using the habitat that we’ve created. It’s going to take some years for everything to grow, but these ecosystems are well on their way to recovery.”

Mount Polley environmental technician surveys sites near Polley lake. Remediation efforts have come a long way and are almost complete. The recovery project has cost Mount Polley’s parent company more than $70 million.
Categories
Remediation

First Nations partners in Mount Polley remediation efforts

The Mount Polley remediation efforts have been underway for years. These efforts have benefited tremendously from the hard work of Mount Polley staff, Mount Polley’s First Nations partners, and local contractors and consultants from nearby Williams Lake. We think that its especially important to highlight the work of First Nations partners as the complementarity of environmental stewardship and responsible resource development is one that we are working to get right. We seek to accomplish this in partnership with all who have a stake in the natural wonder of where we live and work.

Mount Polley remediation efforts have helped restore habitats around Polley lake
Mount Polley remediation has helped restore recreational fishing on beautiful Polley Lake

Mount Polley has remediation partnerships with the T’exelcemc Nation, the Xat’sull First Nation, along with the Secwepemc Nation. First Nations partners have advised and been integral to the remediation of Hazeltine Creek and other affected areas near the Mount Polley site.

Mount Polley partnership with Xat’sull First Nation working to strengthen the shoreline of Hazeltine Creek

Seed gathering and revegetation

Revegetation has been an important part of remediation. For example, members of the Xat’sull First Nation collected willows cuttings for subsequent planting as stakes. As a result, this work enchanced and strengthened the shoreline of Hazeltine Creek. These efforts are part of the 600,000 native shrubs and trees that have been planted. This planting was done in riparian and uplands areas near and at the affected sites. It was important to plant native species to the area. Seeds from vegetative species local to the affected area were incubated and grown in nurseries. Subsequently, these were planted when grown. The practice of seed gathering and spreading has been done on an annual basis. Along with nursery efforts, Mount Polley’s work has been extensive. The remediation project is working to restore the natural ecosystem and native vegetative species. These species include the Red Osier Dogwood and Douglas fir are now thriving.

Restoration of the vegetative species at the creek shorelines has been important for building fish spawning habitats. Thousands of rainbow trout have spawned in Hazeltine Creek. These trout now make up part of the natural habitat in Polley lake. The fish from Quesnel lake and Polley lake are safe to eat.

Mount Polley tailing spill to Mount Polley recovery

As a result, we’ve turned the corner since the Mount Polley tailings spill in 2014. Indeed, the Mount Polley remediation efforts have allowed the site to turn the corner into recovery. In a few short years, with a significant investment of over $70 million, Mount Polley is making things right and is developing new methods and refining best practices along with First Nations partners. Mount Polley is doing this to show that while Canada’s resource development sector gets it right most of the time, when it doesn’t, it makes it right.