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

Columbia River Treaty renegotiation set to begin in early 2018

Renegotiation of the Columbia River Treaty between Canada and the U.S. will begin in early 2018

Site C dam goes ahead, cost estimate now up to $10.7 billion

Premier John Horgan says Christy Clark left him no other choice

Castlegar Rebels take flight in win over Grand Forks

Team speed was too much for the visiting Grand Forks Border Bruins to handle.

Property crime on the rise in Grand Forks: RCMP

Grand Forks RCMP sat down with the Gazette to talk property crime and community solutions.

RDKB elects Russell as board chair

Grace McGregor will be vice-chair of the board.

VIDEO: New series takes in-depth look at sexual harassment in B.C.

Black Press takes a hard look at sexual harassment in B.C.

Accused NYC subway bomber expected to face federal charges

Akayed Ullah, 27, was charged Tuesday with terrorism and weapons related charges

Strategy announced for Indigenous cancer care

Various stakeholders have come together to provide a road map from prevention to survivorship

Environmental groups slam NDP decision to continue with Site C

Construction industry, meanwhile, is cautiously optimistic about how the project will look

B.C. Conservatives applaud Site C decision

B.C. Conservatives happy with government decision to proceed

Hwy. 1 avalanche improvements promise less delays

B.C.’s new remote avalanche-control systems near Revelstoke are ready for avalanche season

2017 word of the year: Feminism

Merriam-Webster’s word of the year for 2017: ‘Feminism’

200 Russians to compete in Olympics as neutrals

The Russian Olympic Committee expects 200 to compete in South Korea

Researchers claim the ‘man flu’ does exist

Review of scientific studies suggests ‘man flu’ may be more intense: researcher

Most Read