Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Company's Offices Searched as Part of Investigation into B.C. Mine Disaster

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Company's Offices Searched as Part of Investigation into B.C. Mine Disaster

Article excerpt

Mining company's offices searched after spill

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VANCOUVER - The B.C. Conservation Service has searched two offices of the company that owns the Mount Polley mine as part of an investigation into a tailings pond spill that gushed millions of cubic metres of wastewater into streams and rivers.

Imperial Metals Corp. (TSX:III) is being investigated by several agencies for possible violations of the Fisheries Act and the Environmental Management Act.

Insp. Chris Doyle of the conservation service said the company's office at the mine in B.C.'s central Interior and its Vancouver headquarters were searched Tuesday after warrants were served.

He said a major investigation is underway. Evidence gathered will be presented to provincial and federal prosecutors, who would determine whether to approve any charges.

Environment Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the RCMP are assisting in the investigation.

"I can't really go into any particulars," Doyle said of his agency's probe. "We don't want to jeopardize the investigation or any subsequent core proceedings."

He could not say which specific areas of the acts that Imperial Metals is suspected of violating.

The maximum penalty under the Environmental Management Act is a $1 million fine or up to six months jail time. Under the Fisheries Act, the maximum penalty is a $500,000 fine or up to two years imprisonment.

The share price of Imperial Metals tumbled Wednesday to $8.72, down from yesterday's closing price of $9.23.

Steve Robertson, Imperial's vice-president of corporate affairs, said the company is co-operating with authorities and the warrants are a normal part of the investigation.

"The timing was a surprise but we of course know that in large investigations like the one that's going on into what happened at Mount Polley, warrants of that type are common," he said.

He said the fact that the investigation is moving forward is a positive step, as the company hopes it helps to dispel "rumours" and "conjecture" swirling around the dam's collapse.

An independent report released last week blamed poor dam design for the collapse at the open pit gold and copper mine. The report said that building the mine's tailings site on a sloped glacial lake failed to account for drainage and erosion. …

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