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First Nation leaders protest Imperial Metals and company's ties with government

Protesters against Mount Polley mine disaster
Protesters walked from Vancouver Public Library to Imperial Metals' headquarters in Downtown Vancouver. Photo: Valentina Ruiz Leotaud.

“Hey, ho! Imperial Metals has got to go!” demonstrators chanted angrily as they marched downtown toward the company's main office. 

At around 2 p.m. on Monday August 11, the Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society led a protest against Imperial Metals' mining activities in the Cariboo region. The recent tailing ponds breach in the company’s Mount Polley mine led to 10.5 million cubic metres of mine wastewater and 4.5 million cubic metres of toxic sediment being poured into the waterways near Williams Lake. 

Chief Mike Retasket, from the Shuswap Nation, blamed the government and the company's stakeholders for the disaster. He also denounced the connections between Imperial Metals’ main shareholder, N. Murray Edwards, and BC's political leaders.

“The government is bought and owned by the mining industry. So we are not surprised when these disasters happen,” he said. Imperial Metals contributed over $140,000 to the Liberals since 2005. 

Retasket, whose home is located 40 kilometres from the disaster area, said the damage from Mount Polley mine goes beyond the recent breach, despite the company's claim that the mine had no problems prior to this incident.

“A tailings pond cannot hold in the toxic chemicals that are being put out by this mine from entering the ecosystem. Constantly, everyday, this tailings ponds are destroying the land, just like they are in Alberta in the tar sands,” he said. 

Bonaparte Indian Band's Chief Mike Retasket. Protest against Imperial Metals

Bonaparte Indian Band's Chief Mike Retasket. Photo: Valentina Ruiz Leotaud

On the other hand, Janice Billy, the rally’s organizer from the Secwepemc Nation, said the protest also aimed to reject other projects led by Imperial Metals. The same company, Imperial Metals, they are at the exploration stage of a mine in the headwaters of the Adams River, which is home to the world’s largest sockeye run. So this would have devastating effects; this spill already does, but this potential mine also has that potential of devastating sockeye salmon. Not only that, but our whole way of life,” she said.

Billy said that the protest was held in Vancouver because it's where Imperial Metals' headquarters are located. However, she emphasized that the main activism is taking place B.C.'s interior.

“We are working with our local people at home and we are having ongoing meetings about what we are going to do in particular about the mine within our territory, close to our home, which is the Ruddock Creek mine. We’ve made seven excursions out there, we are collecting a lot of [water] samples, evidence about what they are doing right now, and informing our people to decide what to do about them.”

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