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

Federal government actions hurt Sooke hatchery fundraising efforts

Funding denial comes on the heels of fishing closures

SD62 student places third in province-wide French competition

12-year-old Sasha Zandieh won third with a speech on poet Pablo Neruda

Island athlete goes from hoop dreams to icy track

Cyrus Gray hopes to punch his ticket to Olympics in bobsleigh

Jesse Roper learns to create fire in the wild, in Sacred Knowledge web series

Ragnarock Studios production shares primitive skills with Islanders

Oak Bay researcher’s Canadian English dictionary goes to print

How an unknown American hobbyist sparked a Canadian dictionary

Police release photos of suspect in daytime sex assault at Vancouver woman’s home

A young woman, in hers 20s, was followed home by the man, before he violently attacked her inside

Raptors beat Bucks 100-94 to advance to franchise’s first-ever NBA Finals

Leonard has 27 points, 17 boards to lead Toronto past Milwaukee

Third person charged in death of B.C. teen Bhavkiran Dhesi

Inderdeep Kaur Deo facing charge of accessory after the fact to murder

Kamloops girl, 9, recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning now out of ICU

Her mother who was sleeping in the same tent with her did not survive

‘I think he’s still alive’: B.C. mom pleads for help finding son last seen a month ago

Family offering $5,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Tim Delahaye

New poll suggests one-third don’t want politicians to wear religious symbols

Local politicians shouldn’t be allowed to wear hijabs, crucifixes or turbans on the job, survey suggests

Raptors fans far from home adjust plans to watch pivotal playoff game

Raptors currently lead the playoff series 3-2, and a win Saturday would vault them into NBA finals

PHOTOS: First responders in Fernie rescue baby owl who fell from nest

The baby owl’s inability to fly back to its nest prompted a rescue by first responders

Five takeaways from the Court of Appeal ruling on B.C.’s pipeline law

It’s unclear how many tools are left in B.C.’s toolbox to fight the project

Most Read