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

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

Environment Canada has issued a wind warning for Greater Victoria, with winds expected to get up to 70 km/h Friday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Wind warning promises blustery Friday for Greater Victoria

Winds up to 70 km/h expected Friday morning

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 from Vancouver to Victoria Feb. 28 were exposed to a case of COVID-19. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
COVID-19 exposure found on flight from Vancouver to Victoria

Passengers in rows 13 to 19 on Air Canada Jazz flight 8069 Feb. 28 affected

Crews deal with a rock slide on the Malahat section of Highway 1 in 2017. (Black Press Media file photo)
Rock work closes Highway 1 in Langford for spurts

Friday closures could delay drivers up to 20 minutes

Low interest rates have acted as a catalyst for the pandemic real estate market. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy)
Real estate sales surging across Greater Victoria but risks lie ahead

Single family home prices jump nine per cent over past year while condo values remain stable

Protestors against old growth logging gather in front of the courthouse in Victoria on Thursday morning. (Don Denton/Black Press Media)
Fairy Creek protesters gather at Victoria courthouse

Logging company seeks injunction to remove blockades near its Port Renfrew operation

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: How’s your butter?

Recent reports have some Canadians giving a second look to one of… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of March 2

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Valley RCMP raid Courtenay problem house, several arrests made

Comox Valley RCMP conducted a raid of a problem house on 20th… Continue reading

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Grand Forks’ Gary Smith stands in front of his Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster float. Photo: Submitted
Grand Forks’ Flying Spaghetti Monster leader still boiling over driver’s licence photo

Gary Smith, head of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster of B.C., said he has since spoken to lawyers

Most Read