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Updated: Mon, 18 Aug 2014 12:56:23 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Mount Polley mine spill: Minister to reveal plans for probe



An aerial view of the Mount Polley mine tailings pond shows the area where the earthen wall gave way early on the morning of August 4. Ministry of the Environment

An aerial view of the Mount Polley mine tailings pond shows the area where the earthen wall gave way early on the morning of August 4. Ministry of the Environment

B.C. Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett is expected to announce this morning the details of an investigation into the Mount Polley tailings pond failure.

Earlier this month, 10 million cubic metres of waste water plus more than four million cubic metres of sediment spilled into Hazeltine Creek after the dam at the mine's tailings pond failed.

- MORE | Mount Polley mine sediment near spill may harm fish

- MORE | Initial water quality test results within drinking guidelines

- MORE | Mount Polley mine spill: Drinking-water ban partially lifted

On Friday, B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak told CBC News there would be an independent inquiry into the accident.

"British Columbians expect an independent investigation and they will get one," Polak told CBC Radio.

"Is it government regulation, is it the level of inspection, is it the engineering? We don't know the answers to those. We need them and we need independent answers."

But the president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, Stewart Phillip, said unless First Nations have direct input into the terms of reference of the inquiry and unless it is fully and properly funded, it will not go far enough.

Phillip is in transit to Williams Lake where he will take part in an emergency meeting with the Williams Lake Indian Band and the Soda Creek First Nation, the two bands most affected by the spill. He says there has been little consultation with First Nations to this point.

"First Nations have not been impressed with the province's efforts to date," Phillip said. "Minister Bennett has trivialized and downplayed the ramifications of this catastrophe."

Hundreds of people were ordered not to drink or bathe in their water after the dam burst two weeks ago.

Test results prompted the local health authority to later lift the water ban  but further test results released last week show that while the discharged sediment is still not toxic for humans, it may harm aquatic life.

The province says sediment samples collected Aug. 10 from the mouth of Hazeltine Creek and near Raft Creek in Quesnel Lake exceed guidelines and contaminated sites regulation standards for copper and iron.

BEFORE/AFTER: Slide your cursor to see the image change

These two images from the NASA Earth Observatory show the Mount Polley tailings dam on July 29, before the spill, and Aug. 5, the day after the spill.

"In the aftermath of the flood, a layer of brown sediment coated forests and stream valleys affected by the spill. Notice how much forest immediately north of the retention basin was levelled. Debris, mainly downed trees, are visible floating on Quesnel Lake," the website says.

(Editor's note: Some of the variations in colours between the two images are caused by different lighting conditions and viewing angles.)

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