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Responding to the Mount Polley Mine Breach


A new research project, funded by Genome British Columbia (Genome BC) and Genome Canada, aims to improve the strategies for monitoring the impact of Mount Polley Mine tailings breach on the ecosystem and to provide recommendations for environmental remediation.

The project is being led by Dr. Lauchlan Fraser from Thompson Rivers University (TRU), Dr. Heath Garris, a post-doctoral fellow in Natural Resource Sciences also at TRU, and Dr. Sue Baldwin, a Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of British Columbia.

Dr. Fraser is speaking about this research at a public event at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops tonight from 5:30 – 7:00pm. This free public event, Bringing Genomics Home: Responding to the Mount Polley Mine Breach, is part of Genome BC’s community outreach series. Registration is

“Genomics technologies may provide the key to both understanding the elements necessary to recreate functional ecosystems and provide sufficient benchmarks for success,” says Dr. Fraser, a Professor in the Natural Resource Sciences. “I am looking forward to sharing information about this research project with the Kamloops community.”

The main objectives of the project are to:

  • Determine the likelihood of long-term metal leaching into the watershed;

  • Improve tools for monitoring passive bioremediation in soil and water;

  • Develop molecular markers of metals removal and soil rehabilitation, and

  • Conduct controlled bioaugmentation/biostimulation trials.

Entitled “Metagenomics to assess impacts of the Mount Polley Mine tailings dam breach on associated ecosystems” the project is valued at close to $300,000. Other funders include Mount Polley Mine (Imperial Metals), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Mitacs.

“We are pleased that our university and our researchers are able to play such an important role in understanding the environmental impact of the collapse of the Mount Polley Mine,” says Dr. Alan Shaver, President and Vice-Chancellor of TRU.


  • Mining accounts for 30,000 jobs in British Columbia and $8-billion in revenues annually. It is a major economic driver and a key pillar of the economy.

  • There are 19 active mines in our province including Mount Polley Mine.

  • On August 4, 2014 the Mount Polley Mine tailings dam breached, sending large amounts of mine-influenced, untreated water and sediment into the natural watershed and local lakes. The knock-on effects are still being assessed but what is known is that better tools are needed to reclaim mine wastes.

  • Bioremediation has been a part of mining for decades however, genomics is enabling new tools to fully understand the intricacies of how microbes work in the mining environment. Applications of genomics to mining ranges from mineral sourcing aboveground to tailing ponds remediation.

  • The Mount Polley Mine tailings dam breach sent 24 million cubic meters of mine-influenced, non-treated water and mine tailings sediment into the natural watershed, covering 25 hectares of lake-associated wetland, 45 hectares of riparian area.

  • The breach released sediment and dissolved contaminants to Polley Lake, and Quesnel Lake.

  • There is still a risk of contamination further downstream into the Fraser River.

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