Categories
Mining facts

Likely Area Mining History

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.

Quesnel Forks information sign at the entrance to the historic townsite

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.

Drone image of the Bullion Pit near Likely, BC

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.

Polley Lake Outlet Structure: water works for placer mining — early 1900s. Courtesy of BC Archives.

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.

To learn more about Likely’s mining history, visit the Cedar City Museum and Info Center located in the Cedar Point Provincial Park in Likely, BC.

This Facebook page gives regular updates on the areas in BC that were part of the mine’s early gold mining history.

Historic building in Quesnel Forks

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.

Historic building in Quesnel Forks. Courtesy of Mount Polley
Historic building in Quesnel Forks overlooking Quesnel River. Part of the history of the Mount Polley site and surrounding area.
View of Quesnel River at confluence with Cariboo River from Quesnel Forks historic townsite
View of Quensel River from Quesnel Forks historic townsite.
Cedar City Museum and information centre in Cedar Point Provincial Park in Likely, BC on Quesnel Lake.
Historic mining equipment on display in Cedar Point Provincial Park in Likely, BC
Categories
Remediation

Mount Polley water quality is evidence of remediation

Mount Polley takes water quality very seriously. Extensive monitoring is evidencing the effectiveness of the remediation and site water management programs undertaken by Mount Polley.

How is water quality monitored in Polley and Quesnel Lakes to ensure proper environmental monitoring is being carried out?

  • Mount Polley follows the BC-ENV approved Comprehensive Environmental Monitoring Plan. The results for all our monitoring sites are published in the publicly available Annual Environmental and Reclamation Reports.
  • You can find a link to the current report here: 2019 Environmental Report 
  • Polley Lake water met all BC Water Quality Guidelines for aquatic life parameters in 2019 with the exception of phosphorus, which was elevated even prior to mining. As Polley Lake is immediately adjacent to the mine site, this indicates the mine is doing a very good job of capturing and controlling run-off.
  • A number of sites are monitored in Quesnel Lake, and in 2019 there were no exceedances of acute BC Water Quality Guidelines.
  • At one monitoring site in Quesnel Lake, there was one minor copper exceedance of chronic BC Water Quality Guidelines in 2019, but as copper is also naturally occurring in the native soils and sediments around Quesnel Lake, and there are a number of creeks that empty into the lake near this sample site, it is difficult to know if this exceedance was natural or related to the mine.

We often get asked if we continue to discharge into Polley Lake or Quesnel Lake?

The mine discharges mine site water, that meets strict permit limits, through diffusers at depth into Quesnel Lake. This water is the only substance the mine is discharging to Quesnel Lake. The mine does not discharge water into Polley Lake.

  • Mount Polley discharges only mine site water that meets strict Environmental Management Act (EMA) permit guidelines.
  • treated by a water treatment plant, when needed to meet permit requirements, before being released into Quesnel Lake. The water going into the treatment plant (influent) is monitored on an ongoing basis, and the treated water leaving the plant (effluent) is sampled regularly for analysis. Not all water at Mount Polley requires treatment to meet EMA permit water quality guidelines before discharge, and in the past, water that was simply stored in Springer Pit was found suitable for passive discharge.
  • The lake water quality is also routinely monitored and sampled regularly as part of the mine’s Comprehensive Environmental Monitoring Plan.

Continued monitoring data confirm that remediation efforts are effective.

  • Currently, there are no indications in the monitoring data that the water discharged from Mount Polley is having any negative effects on Quesnel Lake water quality or aquatic life.
  • If you are interested in looking at water quality data collected on surface water in the area around the Mount Polley mine, in addition to data in the mine’s annual reports, results are available through the BC Government Surface Water Monitoring Sites Interactive Map.

Categories
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.
Categories
Mining facts

Is Mount Polley Dumping Waste into Quesnel Lake?

There has been recent speculation about whether or not Mount Polley is dumping waste into Quesnel Lake. In short, the answer is no. Current treatment of water at Mount Polley, including the dilution zone at depth in Quesnel Lake, ensures water released into Quesnel Lake is in line with BC and Canadian water quality standards. Mount Polley discharges only treated mine site water that meets strict Environmental Management Act (EMA) permit guidelines.

All mine site water is collected and is treated by a Veolia ACTIFLO™ water treatment plant before it is released into Quesnel Lake. (see veoliawatertech.com for more information on their treatment systems and how they work.) The water going into the WTP (influent) is monitored on an ongoing basis (measurements of turbidity every 15 seconds) and the treated water leaving the plant (effluent) is sampled regularly for analysis. The lake water quality is also routinely monitored and sampled regularly as part of the mine’s Comprehensive Environmental Monitoring Plan.

The following are facts that explore, in more detail, the discharge from Mount Polley into Quesnel Lake. We hope this information provides factual clarity about Mount Polley’s approved activities.

Is Mount Polley’s discharge having negative effects on Quesnel Lake?

There are no indications in the monitoring data that the Mount Polley discharge is having any negative effects on Quesnel Lake water quality. If you are interested in looking at some of the water quality data that has been collected on surface water in the area around the Mount Polley Mine, the results are available through the BC Government Surface Water Monitoring Sites Interactive Map

Is the water in Quesnel Lake contaminated? Is it safe to drink?

At this time, there are no indications of contamination of Quesnel Lake water from the Mount Polley spill. The mine, and the Ministry of Environment and Environment Canada, continue to monitor Quesnel Lake. With the exception of natural causes, the lake does not exceed environmental guidelines for any of the constituents of concern that are found in the Mount Polley tailings.

As early as August 12, 2014, BC’s Interior Health Authority (IHA) rescinded all water use restrictions from Quesnel Lake (including for “drinking water, personal use, fishing, swimming and recreational purposes”), except for the immediate impact zone where Hazeltine Creek entered Quesnel Lake. The IHA notice also stated that “Interior Health has no reason to believe that this water was ever exposed to unsafe levels of contaminants from the mine breach. As a result, flushing and testing of individual water supply systems is not considered necessary.”

All water use restrictions were fully rescinded July 13, 2015. (Note: IHA always advises that surface water be treated for pathogens prior to use/consumption.)

How much is the mine discharging into Quesnel Lake?

The Environmental Management Act permit annual average authorized discharge rate is 29,000 cubic meters per day. The actual discharge rate depends upon the rainfall experienced at site which varies from year to year. In 2019, the annual average discharge rate has been 14,883 cubic meters per day, significantly less than the mine’s permit allows.

Categories
Remediation

Mount Polley recovery and remediation adds perspective

A lot has been written about the Mount Polley spill of 2014, though not so much about the remediation efforts which have been quietly underway for years to great effect. Mount Polley recovery and remediation continues. So far, over $70 million has been invested to make things right at the site and the affected areas. Let’s put Mount Polley into perspective. Local habitats are being restored. Fish spawning habitats have helped repopulate rainbow trout populations in Quesnel lake and Hazeltine Creek. The fish are biting are Polley lake!

Mount Polley tecnicians survey creek shoreline
Mount Polley is making things right

Additionally, the project has been one that has followed scientific best practices. The Mount Polley remediation effort has restored vegegative coverage in the affected areas and is seeing local wildlife thrive at the site. The project has been carried out in coordination of Mount Polley Remediation staff along with First Nations partners.

Above all, responsible resource development means setting things right in the rare instances they go wrong. We’re proud of the work that has been done and we’re showing the world that Canada leads in taking responsibility and in developing remediation practices. Truly, Mount Polley recovery and remediation means no less than just that.

Indeed, Canada has a rich traditional of resource development and environmental stewardship. We hope to maintain that legacy and the work accomplished at Mount Polley reflects commitment to that ideal.

We’d like to highlight an article that adds much needed perspective. Dr. Lyn Anglin has written about the remediation efforts at Mount Polley. Dr. Anglin was President and CEO of Geoscience BC. She was the Chief Science Officer and VP Environmental Affairs at Imperial Metals until she retired in 2018. Dr. Anglin was also on the Advisory Council at Resource Works.