Construction of tailings facility at Red Chris copper-gold mine in northwestern B.C.

New penalties coming to B.C. mine regulations

Administrative penalties already exist in forestry and oil and gas industries, prosecution penalties also increasing

The B.C. government is adding administrative fines and strengthening permit requirements for new mines in response to investigations into the Mount Polley tailings dam failure.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said the new fines will be available to provincial officials to compel compliance with safety orders, even when inspectors find conditions that are not officially permit violations.

The size of the new fines will not be determined until amendments to the Mines Act pass in the B.C. legislature, but Bennett said they will be in the range of what is available in forestry and oil and gas regulations. Administrative penalties for high-risk conditions in oil and gas operations range from $2,000 to $500,000.

Bennett said such penalties wouldn’t have prevented the August 2014 dam failure, which was caused by a weak glacial layer under the dam that was not detected when the mine was built. But they would have allowed inspectors to require establishment of “beaches” to protect the dam from erosion by water held inside the tailings, or to lower the water level even if it was within permitted limits.

Legislation introduced Thursday also gives the Environmental Assessment Office authority to require different designs for tailings storage at new mines, then to specify which option it will accept for each proposed site.

Bennett said the existing Mines Act gives inspectors only three options to regulate a mine: order it shut down, revoke a permit or prosecute the company. The changes also increase maximum penalties for prosecution, with maximum fines increased from $100,000 to $1 million and possible jail sentences increased from one year to three years.

Mount Polley’s owner has spent $170 million so far to restore Hazeltine Creek, which was washed out as a torrent of water and mine tailings poured down into Quesnel Lake. Water monitoring continues at the lake, with water continuing to test within regulations for fish habitat and human consumption.

Two engineering reviews of the dam failure have been completed, with no permit violations discovered. The B.C. Conservation Officer Service is expected to report later this year, and may recommend charges related to damaging fish habitat.

 

Just Posted

Merry Makers create new craft fair for Port Alberni

Hansen Hall fair begins as Work of Heart organizers retire

Port Alberni highland dancers invited to North American competition

Kali Nahorney received honourable mention medals in two categories

Government looks for public input on Cathedral Grove safety concerns

Port Alberni, Parksville info sessions invite public to help ‘shape future access’

ARTS AROUND: Enjoy magic and comedy at the Capitol Theatre

Transport yourself back in time for the McLean Mill Christmas Market

Port Alberni to receive $8.7 million in affordable housing

Two projects in the Alberni Valley will provide 87 units of housing

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Protesters confront Environment Minister in B.C.

Protesters wanting more for killer whales confront Catherine McKenna

Humans reshaping evolutionary history of species around the globe: paper

University of British Columbia researcher had the paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society

Toronto ‘carding’ activist Desmond Cole stopped by police in Vancouver

Cole says his experience reveals what daily life is like for black and Indigenous residents

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

Cowichan school district defends lack of notice to parents following elementary student arrest

Officials with School District 79 stand by their decision not to send out an alert.

B.C. firefighters rescue horse stuck in mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Island Corridor Foundation optimistic about restoring rail service

If green-lighted, first priority would be Langford to Victoria route

Most Read