BC Mining Resisters: Secwepemc communities in struggle against the Mt. Polley mine and disaster
Location: Mount Polley Mine, unceded Secwepemc territory, Colonial BC
Mining Company: Imperial Metals
Written By: Chanelle Gauthier
Last year we honored Kanahus for efforts of resisting the Mount Polley Mine by Imperial Metals. We would like to include an update to uphold and recognize the ongoing efforts by Secwepemc communities who continue to confront the lack of accountability of industrial Canadian mining by Imperial Metals.
The Mount Polley mine, operated by Vancouver-based Imperial Metals, has received international attention since the collapse of a major tailings storage facility in August of 2014. The dam failure released 25 million cubic meters of toxic mining effluent into the Edney Creek, Polley Lake, Hazeltine Creek, and Quesnel Lake, resulting in devastating consequences for human and non-human communities that will last for generations. Water quality, major salmon runs, food sovereignty, and many other community resources continue to suffer from the 2014 disaster, as well as the continued intentional draining of effluent into Quesnel Lake.
In spite of the extensive environmental consequences of the initial disaster, as well as the repeated breaches of draining permits, Imperial Metals has not been confronted with any environmental fines or charges. The mine returned to operation in 2015, and received permits to continue draining effluent into Quesnel Lake in 2017 at a rate of nearly 60,000 cubic metres a day. In 2019 Imperial Metals announced a suspension of operations due to declining copper prices, however the extensive environmental, social, and spiritual consequences of mineral extraction in the community remain, and the suspension is expected to be short-lived.
Throughout the history of the Mount Polley mine and in the aftermath of the 2014 disaster resistance against the activity of Imperial Metals in unceded Secwepemc territory has been powerful and unrelenting. Leaders and supporters of the Imperial No More campaign, launched by the Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society and Ancestral Pride, have enacted resistance in many forms. These have included directly impeding mining activity through direct action, and occupying the Imperial Metals headquarters in Vancouver. In spite of the violent and forceful reactions of colonial authorities to these efforts, resisters have held strong and continued to defend the rights of all beings in Secwepemc territory.
The resisters of the Mount Polley mine are nominated for their relentless efforts against long term extraction and devastation of territory, including the impacts of ethnocentrism and gendered colonial violence related to industrial mining. Their efforts have served to raise awareness of the violence of extractivism, to inspire countless others to fight for the health of their communities, and to hold Imperial Metals and the colonial authorities accountable for the extensive suffering caused by the Mount Polley mine.
Join us to celebrate BC Mining Resisters of the Year at the GALA OF RESISTANCE on Wednesday, May 1st in Vancouver, BC, unceded Coast Salish Territories.