The Mount Polley mine tailings breach that occured outside Quesnel on August 4 is not good news for proponents of B.C. liquefied natural gas projects and oil pipelines.
I’m up in Hazelton in northwestern B.C. this week, meeting with members of the Gitxsan First Nation about eviction notices some Gitxsan members have served to CN Rail and other companies in the Skeena River basin.
In Gitxsan territory, through which the provincial government is planning to permit the construction of at least two LNG pipelines, it’s obvious that the Mount Polley accident is on everybody’s mind.
The tailings pond breach was brought up by every single person I interviewed today.
Hloax (Bridie O'Brien), a wing chief of the Kyolugyet House, which has land within Gitxsan territory, described industrial accidents as a matter of probability.
“In my perspective, the cost [of pipeline projects] is way too great,” O’Brien said at her home in Old Hazelton. “Look at what is happening up in Quesnel right now....What are the people in that area going to do? How is that going to affect their economy? The traditional industry in Quesnel, how is that going to be affected?”
Gwaans (Bev Clifton Percival), negotiator for the Gitxsan Treaty Society, described the Mount Polley tailings pond breach as an example of such projects' possible “implications on the ground”.
“The big environmental disaster that happened outside Quesnel, the same can happen anywhere on any of these projects,” Clifton Percival said. “That is why there is opposition to Enbridge, that is why there is opposition to LNG.”
Delgamuukw (Earl Muldon), a member of the Gitxsan First Nation who lends his name to a landmark 1997 supreme court decision regarding aboriginal title, warned that there are potential accidents left behind by industrial projects all over B.C.
“Some of the things that could happen are happening now,” he said interviewed in his wood shop. “Down south of here, there is a big calamity right now. What’s happened is, the mining ponds are starting to break loose….And the thing is, they reap so much profit and they don’t give a shit about the land.”