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

Victoria’s little free libararies get 5,000th book

Volunteers have been dropping off books around Greater Victoria since 2017

Oak Bay brothers scoop 10 kg of poop from park paths in 30 mins

Family picks up dog poo to give back, inspire others to be more responsible

Vancouver Island woman to attempt historic swim across Juan de Fuca Strait today

Ultra-marathon swimmer Susan Simmons to attempt to swim from Victoria to Port Angeles and back

PHOTOS: Tour de Victoria takes off

1,800 cyclists took off in the Ryder Hesjedal’s Tour de Victoria for a city-wide loop

First responders, police march in funeral procession for Fredericton officers

Hundreds of officials marched in the parade, which included massed band, several police motorcycles

Canadians react to death of former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan at age 80

Nobel Peace Prize-winning former UN leader died early Saturday following a short illness

Five things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Puppy yoga, horses, cars, water guns and more make up this weekend’s list of events to see

44 drownings so far this year in B.C.

Lifesaving Society urging caution to prevent deaths while on lakes, oceans and in pools

Some of B.C.’s air quality levels worse than Jodhpur, India

Okanagan, northern B.C. seeing some of the worst air quality globally

VIDEO: Ground crews keep a close eye on largest B.C. wildfire

Originally estimated to be 79,192 hectares, officials said more accurate mapping shows smaller size

Canadians believe in immigration but concerned about asylum seekers: study

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada paid for study to understand Canadian attitudes

These are the highest-paid actresses of 2018

In its list released this week Forbes said all 10 earned a total of $186 million before tax

Most Read