bears and more • Klaus Pommerenke
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30. August 2015
Goldmine auf Banks Island nach Verseuchung der Umwelt wohl endgültig geschlossen
Die von Banks Island Gold Ltd. illegal weiterbetriebene Yellow Giant Gold Mine auf Banks Island bleibt wohl endgültig geschlossen, nachdem ca. 240.000 Liter Abwässer und darin enthaltene Bergbaurückstände aus einem schlampig aufgeschütteten Rückhaltebecken in einen lachsführenden Fluss (Banks Lake Creek) und ins Meer (Survey Bay) gelangt waren. Seit März 2015 wurde die Goldmine betrieben ohne jede Umweltverträglichkeitsprüfung und gegen den ausdrücklichen Willen der Gitxaala First Nation, auf deren Territorium die Mine errichtet wurde.
Schon im März und Juni fielen die Umweltverstöße auf, doch verbessert wurde nichts. Am 15. Juli wurde vom Ministry of Energy and Mines die Schließung der Mine angeordnet, doch wegen der abgeschiedenen Lage wurde sie zunächst heimlich illegal weiterbetrieben, bis die Gitxaala First Nation und Pacific Wild dies dokumentierte und die Öffentlichkeit informierten. Am 11. August fasste die Meldung von Pacific Wild (Update: Financially-challenged Yellow Giant Gold Mine unlike to ever open again) die Ereignisse zusammen:
Mine exposed for ignoring shutdown order
After reports surfaced of a mining spill at the Yellow Giant Gold mine, Pacific Wild set out to document the damage. The underground mine is located 110 km south of Prince Rupert on Banks Island, located in the Great Bear Rainforest on Gitxaala territory. Upon arrival, the Pacific Wild team was denied access to the mining area and sent a drone over the mine to take photos and video. Resulting footage was immediately circulated to partners, media, and the public.
Subsequent media reports promptly revealed the mine was still in operation despite a shutdown order issued by the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines on July 15, 2015 in response to pollution and permit violations. Additional media reports, statements by Banks Island Gold, and research from Mining Watch Canada uncovered that the mine had been authorized without an environmental impact assessment and that as late as July 28 the company was ignoring the shutdown order. Amidst these announcements, Banks Island Gold’s stock plummeted, a board member resigned, and on Tuesday August 4, 2015 –20 days after the shutdown order had been issued– Banks Island Gold finally closed the mine.
Legal action to follow
The underground mine was built adjacent to the river banks of a highly productive wild salmon system, where toxins were released into the river as early as March 2015. This river and its connecting waterways are central to the food gathering of the Gitxaala people, who live off the salmon, seaweed, sea asparagus and other marine sustenance found in the area. Now that effluent is leaking into the streams and surrounding area, many people are afraid to harvest.
In response to the spill and damages to their territory and traditional food sources, the Gitxaala First Nation announced early on it would take legal action against Banks Island Gold, with Chief Clarence Innes calling on the company to ‘clean up and get out’.
Federal investigation already underway
The extent of the damage to the ecosystem is the subject of an Environment Canada investigation, which seeks to determine whether there have been any violations of the pollution prevention provisions of the Fisheries Act.
Regardless of the outcomes of this investigation, the pending legal action by the Gitxaala First Nations makes it inconceivable that the financially-challenged Banks Island Gold will be able to secure financing to reopen the mine. All of this begs the question: who will pay for the clean-up?
The damage caused by toxins released into the salmon system since March cannot be undone, but we remain hopeful the federal investigation and pending legal action will uncover any similarly flawed mining projects in the Great Bear Rainforest, and discourage new ones from cutting corners.”
© Pacific Wild
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