Tailings storage facility construction for Red Chris mine in northwestern B.C.

B.C. resists call for outside mine oversight

Mines Minister Bill Bennett admits more enforcement needed, says ministry is likely the best able to run it

The B.C. government’s oversight of mining has too few resources and inspections and a lack of enforcement, increasing risk of another Mount Polley-type failure that damages the environment, B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer says in a new report.

Bellringer said having mine permitting and mine inspections in the same ministry creates an “irreconcilable conflict” between promoting expansion of mining and regulating it. She recommends moving the compliance and enforcement function outside the ministry to an independent body.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett stopped short of rejecting that idea, but said he has found no other jurisdiction in Canada that does that, and there are important reasons for keeping it within the ministry.

His position was backed by two senior officials, Chief Inspector of Mines Al Hoffman and George Warnock, director of geotechnical engineering for the B.C. government.

Hoffman said it’s important that the technical experts who set permit conditions and then do compliance and enforcement be in the same group so they know how to follow up.

Warnock used the example of the KSM mine, recently permitted for construction in northwest B.C. with 178 conditions.

“We know exactly what we’re looking for in those permit conditions when we go to that mine, and I don’t know how a body outside the ministry would,” Warnock said.

NDP mining critic Norm Macdonald said the 2014 collapse of the tailings dam at Mount Polley copper mine near Williams Lake shows the auditor is correct that there is not a “culture of enforcement” in B.C. mining.

An undetected weak layer under the Mount Polley dam was the ultimate cause of the failure, but risk was compounded by high water, the lack of “beach” construction to ease pressure on the dam and a steeper slope than what was called for in the original plans, Macdonald said.

Bennett acknowledged that the ministry had too few geotechnical inspectors in 2009-10. He said the ministry accepts the other 17 recommendations in Bellringer’s report, and is on its way to implementing them.

The government has changed the Mines Act to allow for administrative penalties to be assessed if mine operators don’t comply with inspection orders.

Macdonald said there have been no penalties assessed to the company operating the Mount Polley mine, and no penalties have ever been assessed under the Mines Act under the B.C. Liberal government.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Closures and cancellations in the Bulkley Valley due to COVID-19

Many places and businesses have closed or reduced their hours

UPDATE: Man drowns crossing Skeena River

59-year old Prince Rupert victim pronounced dead at Mills Memorial

Better COVID-19 testing results needed in the north

Former senior Northern Health official also wants work camps shut down

Social media a blessing and a curse during time of crisis: B.C. communication expert

‘In moments of crisis, fear is very real and palpable,’ says SFU’s Peter Chow-White

Northern Health preparing ‘for a changing situation’ in response to COVID-19

The health authority is taking a number of measures to free up hospital capacity where possible

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

John Horgan extends B.C.’s state of emergency for COVID-19

Premier urges everyone to follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice

B.C.’s first community COVID-19 death was dentist ‘dedicated’ to health: lawyer

Vincent was 64 when he died on March 22 after attending the Pacific Dental Conference

Two inmates at prison housing Robert Pickton test positive for COVID-19

Correctional Service of Canada did not release any details on the identities of the inmates

BC SPCA launches matching campaign to help vulnerable animals after big donations

Two BC SPCA donors have offered up to $65,000 in matching donations

Quarantined B.C. mom say pandemic has put special-needs families in ‘crisis mode’

Surrey’s Christine Williams shares family’s challenges, strengths

Anti-tax group calls for MPs, senators to donate scheduled pay raises to charity

Bill C-30, adopted 15 years ago, mandates the salary and allowance increases each calendar year

Two arrested after man lies about COVID-19 illness to stay in Victoria Airbnb for free

Victoria Police found stolen goods inside the occupied unit

Liberals delay release of 75% wage subsidy details, costs: Morneau

Program will provide up to $847 per week for each worker

Most Read