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

Liam’s Lowdown: it’s the little things that get you

At first, the name of my column was going to be Liam’s Lament

Despite brief shut downs Revelstoke’s Downie Timber weathering the storm

The forestry industry is taking a hit across the province

Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for Aug. 21

Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for Aug. 21

Two musical acts playing The Last Drop on Aug. 24

See John Michael Lind and She Hangs Brightly

Trudeau to meet with U.K. and Japanese prime ministers ahead of G7 summit

French President Emmanuel Macron, this year’s G7 host, has little expectations of a unified front from the leaders

Thousands cycle to conquer cancer

The 11th annual Ride to Conquer Cancer took place Saturday morning, Aug. 24 in Surrey, B.C.

PHOTOS: Brazil military begins operations to fight Amazon fires

Amazon fires have become a global issue, escalating tensions between Brazil and European countries

Racist confrontation in Richmond parking lot caught on camera

Woman can be heard yelling racial slurs, swear words at woman in apparent parking dispute

Okanagan Nation bringing overdose awareness to Syilx Okanagan communities

The Purple Ribbon Campaign for International Overdose Awareness Day is Aug. 28

Groups ready campaign to help young voters identify ‘fake news’ in election

The media literacy campaign to focus on identifying misinformation and suspicious sources online

Big rally in northern B.C. draws attention to continuing lumber crisis

Mayor Joan Atkinson says about 400 workers have been directly affected by the closure of the Canfor mill

Orangeville Northmen take Minto Cup at Langley Events Centre

Swept best-of-five series 3-0 over Victoria Shamrocks

Expanded support to help B.C. youth from care attend university still falling short

Inadequate support, limited awareness and eligibility restrictions some of the existing challenges

Most Read