Tailings of woe for lakes across country

Cans, bottles, wrappers – there is no end to the crap some people are willing to leave behind when they go fishing.

I don’t know how many times over the years I have reached into the cold waters of a lake or stream to grab a beer or pop can that someone has tossed into the water.

At five cents each, I’ve probably retrieved enough to have bought myself a few new fly lines.

Cans, bottles, wrappers and discarded monofilament line – there is no end to the crap some people are willing to leave behind when they go fishing.

I was always taught that what you bring in, you take out.

I remember one time I was just getting ready to head out fishing in my boat when the silver glint of a beer can caught my attention. I was a short distance from shore in about six to eight feet of water. I’d just finished rigging up my rod and was looking forward to a day on the water. The sun was shining and there wasn’t even the hint of a cloud in the sky. A perfect, warm, lazy summer afternoon. Perfect, except for that beer can sitting on the bottom. I put a couple of split shot weights on the end of my leader and lowered the fly into the crystal-clear water in hopes of hooking the can by catching the opening from the pull-tab. I tried for quite some time but just couldn’t manage to get the barb of the hook inside. In frustration, I took off my shirt, socks and shoes, emptied my pockets and dove into the water. Needless to say, I was much younger back then and, like I said, it was a warm summer afternoon. But boy was the water cold. My whole body went into shock as I descended into the water. I grabbed the tin and made my way back up in a hurry. Maybe diving in after a tin can was not the smartest thing to have done, but I just couldn’t let it sit there.

If I had met up with the person who had thrown their empty beer can into the water, I would have had a few choice words to say to them. Which brings me to my point. According to a CBC News report, the federal government is planning to designate a number of lakes in B.C. and across Canada as sites to dump tailings from mining operations.

A total of 16 lakes are slated to be “reclassified” as toxic dump sites for mines. The lakes include prime wilderness fishing lakes from B.C. to Newfoundland.

Under the Federal Fisheries Act, it is illegal to put harmful substances into fish-bearing waters. However, under a little-known subsection of the act, Schedule Two of the Mining Effluent Regulations, the federal government can redefine lakes as ‘tailings impoundment areas.’ This means mining companies no longer need to construct containment ponds for their toxic mine tailings.

Imperial Metals Corporation, the same company that operates the Mount Polly Mine site, plans to enclose a remote watershed valley in Northern B.C. to hold tailings from their Red Chris gold and copper mine operations. The valley lies in what the Tahltan First Nations people call the sacred headwaters of three major salmon rivers: the Stikine, Nass and Skeena. It also serves as spawning grounds for the rainbow trout of Kluela Lake, which is downstream from the proposed dump site.

In a ruling last fall, Federal Court judge Luc Martineau ruled the federal Government acted illegally in trying to fast-track Red Chris without a full and public environmental review. That decision put the project on temporary hold; however, a more recent Federal Appeals Court decision has reversed the Martineau ruling, thus paving the way for the federal government to declare the lakes to be used as tailings dump sites without public consultation. All I know is that I won’t be diving into any of those lakes up there to retrieve any beer cans.