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.

 

Just Posted

Castlegar Mayor, area residents react to referendum defeat

Chernoff says proponents did “all they could” to push for project’s approval

Area I rejects recreation complex expansion proposal: referendum defeated

Enhancement plan wins overall vote, but was lost in one polling station

Moms of those killed by illicit opioids take to B.C. Legislature in call for action

Moms Stop the Harm, a nationwide network of families who have lost loved ones to overdoses rally

Head of ‘Yes’ campaign says RDCK money used properly in referendum

Elections BC has no problems with third parties doing educational and promotional work in a campaign

Work begins on final phase of skatepark

Volunteers needed to help plant shrubs and trees on Saturday and Sunday

Pigs crash yoga class in B.C.

First it was goats, now it’s pigs — you can get downward dog with the whole farm in Aldergrove

MyHealth portal expands in Vernon

Popular project will expand throughout Interior Health throughout the summer

Judge dismisses DNA request in Cranbrook triple murder case

Dean Christopher Roberts must appeal directly to the federal Minister of Justice, reads ruling.

Yes, we could use a soft drink tax

NDP rejects useful tax advice because it’s not popular

Canada sweeps China in Pacific Rim Basketball Classic

National men’s team beats China twice over weekend in Vancouver and Victoria

Rainbow crosswalk in B.C. defaced 10 days after installation

Surrey’s first rainbow crosswalk has been defaced sometime over the weekend

Closing arguments expected in trial for twice convicted Canadian killer

Crown, defence expected to give closing arguments in Millard murder trial

Canadians undertake the world’s most dangerous peacekeeping mission

A dozen Canadian peacekeepers arrive in Mali as yearlong mission begins

Most Read