First Nations Health Authorities – Mount Polley Health Impact Assessment. Screening and Scoping Phase Findings

August 2, 2016

On August 4, 2014, the tailings storage facility at the Mount Polley Mine breached. Over the next three days, the four-square-kilometre pond released approximately 17 million cubic metres of tailings water and eight million cubic metres of tailings into Polley Lake, Quesnel Lake and Hazeltine Creek.

At the invitation of local First Nations, the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) commissioned the initial phases of a Health Impact Assessment (HIA). An HIA is a systematic approach to assessing the health impacts and risks associated with an event, project, or policy, and uses​ qualitative, quantitative and participatory methods.

This work was accomplished by a team led by two international Health Impact Assessment (HIA) experts (Dr. Janis Shandro and Dr. Mirko Winkler). The two main objectives of this project were to identify impacted communities and potential health risks and impacts related to the tailings dam breach using international assessment standards.

As part of the participatory approach used by the project team, six Community Based Coordinators assisted in the project with 22 participating First Nations. Communities identified potential health risks and impacts from the dam failure span from as far north as Fort St. James and south to Fraser Canyon. This work has documented the following post-breach impacts experienced by First Nation communities:

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