Approximately 6,000 gallons of coal tailings from Coalmont Energy spilled over the banks of their containment pond Saturday, causing the Tulameen River to turn black.
Keith Meldrum of Coalmont Energy said the spill was caused by a malfunction at their new plant, located 20 kilometres west of the town of Princeton, and the tailings entered the river next to Collins Gultch. He said that the area’s water supply was not at risk, and that there was no environmental impact aside from increased turbidity.
“It is our belief at this point that this is more of a visual impact, and there is minimal environmental impact,” he said, adding that the tailings are not toxic because the coal it mines doesn’t contain sulfur or blasting contaminates.
“This small event just happened to exceed our backup plan…it’s certainly unfortunate, and our main concern is the environment and getting this issue rectified right way.”
The plant installed by Coalmont has been shut town until further notice, and the provincial government is monitoring the situation. American officials have been notified, as there is risk the tailings could make its way to the Columbia River.
Bob Sterne, the owner of the motel in Coalmont, says nobody from the mining company or government has contacted people in their small town yet.
“The biggest disappointment is nobody’s contacted us, and certainly haven’t been going door to door to tell us that we’re safe,” he said. “We run a motel, and we don’t know what to tell our guests.”
– With files from Global Okanagan