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Updated: Thu, 07 Aug 2014 18:21:48 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Mount Polley mine spill: Christy Clark says good early news from water tests



B.C. Premier Christy Clark visited the community of Likely, B.C., on Thursday, days after the disastrous failure of the containment wall of the tailings pond at the Mount Polley mine. Here, Clark has ash smudged on her face at a prayer and healing ceremony held by the Esk'etemc Seqwyitsk on Secwepemc territory. CBC

B.C. Premier Christy Clark visited the community of Likely, B.C., on Thursday, days after the disastrous failure of the containment wall of the tailings pond at the Mount Polley mine. Here, Clark has ash smudged on her face at a prayer and healing ceremony held by the Esk'etemc Seqwyitsk on Secwepemc territory. CBC

B.C. Premier Christy Clark told reporters to expect some good early news when she announces the initial results from water testing following the accidental release of contaminated mine tailings and water from the Mount Polley mine site.

Clark refused to elaborate, saying she wanted residents to have results first.

"It's still a mystery as to how it happened," the premier said. "Once we determine the cause, it'll be much easier to assign responsibility. We've got a lot of work to do to understand this before we jump to conclusions."

Clark is due to share water quality test results at a meeting with the community at 3 p.m. PT. You can watch a livestream of the announcement above.

Earlier in the day the B.C. premier took part in a First Nations healing ceremony as she travelled around the remote community and the larger centre of Williams Lake.

During the ceremony, Clark was smudged with ceremonial charcoal, as members of the Esk'etemc Seqwyitsk band prayed and sung for healing of the water and the environment impacted by the spill.

As debris drifted past on the river behind them, one First Nations speaker said he believed there was poison coming down the river, and another said she felt as though there had been a death in the family.

Clark was expected to address the media after the ceremony, but it is now thought she will speak at a community meeting to inform residents of water quality test results, which begins at 3 p.m. local time.

Residents of Likely, in B.C.'s Cariboo district, are anxiously waiting to find out just how safe or unsafe the water in Quesnel Lake is for people and wildlife living downstream from the gold and copper mine northeast of Williams Lake.

They were advised Monday not to drink, bathe or swim in the water until officials determine what's in it.

- MINISTRY ORDER | B.C. mine-waste spill could mean $1M fine for Imperial Metals

- PHOTOS | 'The devastation up the lake is unbelievable'

- IMPERIAL METALS | Tailings water 'very close' to drinking quality

'Deeply troubling environmental crisis'

Meanwhile, the Assembly of First Nations called for immediate action to limit the damage done by what they called a "developing and deeply troubling environmental crisis."

"There are immediate risks to the residents, the environment and the economy — particularly the fisheries,​" said AFN BC Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould in a press release.

"This area is upstream from the Fraser River and is a major spawning ground for salmon, both of which are integral to Indigenous peoples culture and way of life."

Association of First Nations Alberta Regional Chief Cameron Alexis, who oversees the environment portfolio for the AFN, said First Nations communities are often the first the feel the impact of environmental changes.

 "First Nations and many Canadians continue to be concerned about the weakening of environmental standards and protection of waterways and fish habitats as a result of recent changes to legislation," said Alexis in the same statement. 

"We must focus on the need to include First Nations in early planning and mitigation as well as monitoring the long-term effects where our lands and traditional territories are concerned. This is our right and this approach will benefit all Canadians."

The spill happened in First Nations Secwepemc Territory, whose leaders have called upon Imperial Metals to shut down business within the Secwepemc Nation and called on a moratorium on mining within their territory.

The Secwepemc Women Warrior Society, representing the women of the First Nation, announced Thursday they intended to stage a protest outside the Toronto Stock Exchange to voice opposition to the company.

"I am torn about the Imperial Metals tailings spill that has wreaked havoc on my homelands, since my family and [Aboriginal] Peoples have been fighting this same mine for years," said the society's Kanahus Manuel in a press release.

"We will send our war cries into the universe. Let's force the Toronto Stock Exchange to pull Imperial Metals off the TSX."

Save-On-Foods donates water

Save-On-Foods stepped forward Wednesday, confirming that it is partnering with the Red Cross to donate and distribute 18,000, 500 ml bottles of water and 1,440 four-litre bottles of water.

The Cariboo Regional District's emergency operations centre confirmed the water bottles would be available to residents in need starting at 8:45 a.m. PT Thursday at the Likely Community Hall.

Al Richmond, speaking for the Cariboo Regional District, said that water for bathing and washing is another matter.

"Our focus has been to increase the capacity we have for potable water in the community of Likely. We have also been trying to secure portable shower facilities," he said. "We have had some difficulty doing that. We have located some: We are looking for an ETA of their arrival."

In the meantime, boom boats and barges have been active on Quesnel Lake, moving and collecting islands of washed-down trees.

- MORE | Video tour of Quesnel Lake's new debris piles

- PHOTOS | Quesnel Lake debris cleanup begins

Mining company Imperial Metals is also continuing work to shore up the walls of the failed tailings containment pond to prevent further discharges.

- IN-DEPTH | Tailings ponds: What's in them?

B.C.'s Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Energy and Mines have begun a full investigation into the impacts and cause of the catastrophe.

- REPORT | Tailings pond breach followed years of government warnings

- MORE | Salmon run threatened by Mount Polley mine spill

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