SkyTruth – Shepherdstown, WV: On Monday, August 4, 2014, an approximately 580 acre tailings impoundment failed at a Canadian gold and copper mine near Likely, British Columbia. The breach at Imperial Metal’s Mt. Polley mine dumped an estimated 1.3 billion gallons of toxic mine waste into the surrounding environment. On August 5, Landsat 8 acquired an image of the mine showing that grey sludge from the breached dam has entered Polley Lake, saturated the entire length of Hazeltine Creek, and entered Quesnel Lake over five miles downstream of the failed impoundment.
The spill has prompted drinking water bans throughout the region, since the pond contains a slurry laden with arsenic, lead, mercury, selenium, and other toxic metals and compounds.
*Media – Click here for a full-resolution version of the after image. Credit: USGS via SkyTruth
Local citizens anticipating the arrival of a salmon run now fear the worst for the environment and tourism, especially as they begin to document dead fish in Quesnel Lake.
Environmental groups across North America will be watching this story closely given the similarities to the proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska’s Bristol Bay watershed, the world’s most productive wild salmon fishery. Tailings ponds at Pebble mine would cover a surface area 13 times larger than the Mt. Polley impoundment and would have earthen dams taller than the Washington Monument.