MAC: Mines and Communities

Environmental cover-ups continue in mining industry, says Chief Thomas

Published by MAC on 2004-12-10

Environmental cover-ups continue in mining industry, says Chief Thomas

Media Release - Nak'azdli Traditional Territory

December 10, 2004

­ The leadership of the Nak'azdli First Nation learned through an unofficial source that on November 30, 2004, Teck Cominco's tailings pond dam at Pinchi Lake failed, resulting in untold amounts of toxic, mercury-laden effluent spilling into this fish-bearing lake.

"It¹s unacceptable that my office wasn't notified by government or industry of this environmental disaster when it first occurred," said Chief Leonard Thomas, explaining that the lake lies in his Band's traditional territory, about 25 kilometres from his village near Fort St. James.

Chief Thomas said he was only recently informed through another source that this is the second failure for the 100 metre-long dam, the first occurring earlier in its life.

"I wasn't aware of the first failure until just recently. Now with this second one it seems to reveal a pattern in this company's history of denying and covering up the mine's impacts on our people and our land," said Chief Thomas. He goes on to cite numerous mercury-related health problems that his people and other Native people nearby have experienced over the life of the 70 year-old mine.

"This is serious," declared Chief Thomas. "Our people still fish that lake, we still hunt animals near that lake, and that lake drains into Stuart Lake traveling down salmon spawning beds."

"Government and industry had better wake up to how serious this really is," he stressed. "There has to be an investigation with First Nations involvement into how this happened and what to expect because it did."

"We're told these dams are supposed to last forever... yet the mining industry continues to approach us with new projects, telling us everything is scientific, that nothing bad will ever happen to people or the land after they leave."

"That's bullshit," expressed the Chief, in an uncharacteristic display of anger. "I suspect the entire mining industry will feel the fallout of this environmental disaster."

For further comment, contact Chief Leonard Thomas at 250-613-6340.

This media release has been distributed by Big Eagle Consulting ( 604-314-4083)

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