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

Sheldon Nipshank and Amy Brown received Stay of Proceedings on charges

Nipshank’s next appearance in Quesnel provincial court slated for May 10

Editorial: (Don’t) light my fire

Series of house fires around Quesnel worrying

Paisley Players are back with a new production

Local troupe of thespians get ready for the stage, seek behind-the-scenes help

Sheds and travel trailer lost in blaze at Milburn Lake residence

The property owners were not home when the fire began

A paddlers dream come true

Ron Watteyne and John Marien will discuss their 481 km NWT trip at the Blackwater Paddlers AGM

VIDEO: Moose found licking salt off B.C. man’s pickup truck

Tab Baker was in his garage in Prince George when the small moose gave his truck a clean

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Half-naked shooter guns down four, runs away in Nashville Waffle House shooting

Nashville police say they are looking for Travis Reinking in connection with the shooting

Child’s body found in river downstream from where boy went missing during flood

Three-year-old Kaden Young was swept out of his mother’s arms in February

B.C. VIEWS: Eliminating efficiency for farm workers

Don’t worry, NDP says, the B.C. economy’s booming

B.C. student makes short-list for autism advocacy award

Brody Butts honoured for his role as a mentor and self-advocate

Austin Powers ‘Mini-Me’, Verne Troyer, dies at 49

Facebook page confirmed his death Saturday afternoon

Alberta man dead after snowmobile collision on B.C. mountain

The incident occurred on Boulder Mountain Friday morning

B.C. parents grieving teen’s overdose death say it started with opioid prescription

Elliot Eurchuk, 16, died at his Oak Bay home Friday, after taking street drugs

Most Read