WATCH ABOVE: B.C.’s privacy commissioner will investigate whether the provincial government failed in its duty to warn the public about conditions at the Mount Polley tailings pond. Meantime, dozens of workers at the mine received layoff notices. Jas Johal has the latest.
VANCOUVER – No money is currently being generated at the Mount Polley Mine near Likely, B.C.
This is a cleanup operation now with the impact of last week’s spill clearly being felt with 42 workers being laid off on Thursday.
“At first everyone’s in shock, “said Paul French, United Steelworkers Local 1425 president. “Then comes the fear of them losing their job. Now we’re in the reality stage of ‘OK now what do I do?'”
With the cleanup effort continuing, more than 300 employees still don’t know their future.
Many make over $100,000 a year mining, with another 1,000 other suppliers who rely on the mine. The permanent closure of Mount Polley would be devastating for Likely.
“We’re all hoping for the best that we can get the mine back up and running,” said French. “Get the cleanup done and keep our guys working.”
Beyond layoffs, the problems for Imperial Metals are just beginning.
The cleanup costs are expected to be astronomical with one analyst at BMO Nesbitt Burns estimating it will cost 200-million dollars, and that’s before legal damages, which could double the amount.
The company says it has 15 -million dollars in business interruption insurance coverage.
Even though the government insists the province has a Polluter Pays Principle there’s no guarantee Imperial Metals can come up with the cash.
Imperial Metals officials say getting Mount Polley up and running to generate cash flow may be the way to pay for the cleanup.
Without it analysts say the company may have to sell assets to absorb the financial impact.
The repercussions of this spill are environmental, economic, and political.
– With files from Jas Johal