Mount Polley Mine Spill Area Faces Economic Fallout

By Joel Cuttiford

Tourism operators in the town of Likely, B.C. are reporting that the Mount Polley mine spill has marred the area’s reputation.

Business owners say that reservations have dropped considerably over the past few weeks, undoubtedly due to the disaster at the mine site.  Many of the miners who stay in local hotels and frequent local restaurants have since disappeared.

“As far as we’re concerned, it’s a disaster that nobody’s doing anything about,” Gary Zorn, owner of Ecotours-BC told CBC News.

The August 4th breach released ten billion liters of water and 4.5 million cubic meters of metals-laden sand into the surrounding area, contaminating lakes, creeks and rivers.

Zorn also noted that the spill cut access to areas that he depends on for wilderness expeditions.  He believes that the province should provide assistance to businesses that were left struggling by the spill.

Many hotels in the area cater to tourists and miners.  The union representing Mount Polley mineworkers claims that nearly four-dozen people lost their jobs in the weeks following the spill.  Their absence is deeply felt by local businesses that depended on their patronage.

Business owners have expressed fear that international attention to the mine spill will keep tourists away well into the future.

“The fear is that the mass public is getting the wrong impression about the water quality and what the situation is really like in Likely and in the surrounding area,” Jason Ryll, president of the Williams Lake Chamber of Commerce told CBC.

“Our main problem is trying to make sure that people understand that Likely is still open for business.”

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