The Red Chris open pit mine, approximately 80 km south of Dease Lake, B.C. (Newcrest Mining photo)

B.C. should demand mining companies pay cleanup costs up front: Indigenous study

Auditor general recently found the costs of cleanup go beyond government’s surety by $1.4 billion

A report is urging B.C. to get better financial guarantees that mining companies will pay for the mess they make.

The First Nations who commissioned the study say that if the government doesn’t do it, they will.

“There’s clearly a recognition by the government and the courts that we have ownership and lands and we have jurisdiction and authority,” said Allen Edzerza of the B.C. First Nations Energy and Mining Council.

“What this report is suggesting is that maybe they should exercise some of that authority.”

The province is reviewing the rules by which it ensures that taxpayers aren’t stuck with the costs of cleaning up or caring for abandoned mines. The report points to several recent examples of the government being left to pay the costs, including at least $500,000 at one old gold mine.

Current legislation requires companies to put up more assets towards the end of a mine’s life. But the assets often depend, directly or indirectly, on the company’s value or on commodity prices.

B.C.’s auditor general recently concluded that the costs of mine cleanups exceed the surety held by the government by $1.4 billion.

That leaves the public at risk even with good-faith operators, said Jason Dion, a consultant who wrote the report.

“Even a big, well-capitalized mining company can go bankrupt,” he said.

“You’re essentially betting $1.4 billion on the continued financial viability of the mining sector. If there was commodity price downturn, you could see a number of mining companies going bankrupt.”

A better solution would be to require miners to put up hard assets out front that wouldn’t change value, said Dion.

Quebec has such a policy and leads the country in new mining investment.

B.C. chiefs are likely to pay close attention to what the report suggests, Edzerza said. “The chiefs will be very supportive of that approach.”

READ MORE: Five years later, accountability unresolved in Mount Polley mine disaster

Court decisions as well as the province’s recent recognition of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ensure First Nations have a strong hand to play when it comes to mining development on their lands, said Edzerza.

“Clearly government has to change its approach,” he said. “If you’re going to mine, we think the reclamation has to be addressed properly.”

Edzerza said First Nations are in talks with B.C. on reforms to mining regulations, including on how cleanup guarantees are funded.

Other jurisdictions are doing a better job, said Dion. “On this front, British Columbia is a bit of a laggard.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Human behaviour likely to deter birds from Esquimalt Lagoon, survey suggests

More Great Blue Herons spotted, fewer mallard ducks seen

Garth Homer Society in Saanich turns lemons into lemonade with online programs

Victoria disability organization sets up online programs and learning tools in wake of COVID-19

Sidney’s Mary Winspear Centre to host a trio of acts

Aaron Pritchett, Alex Cuba and Valdy will each play four shows

PHOTOS: A morning in a physically-distanced Victoria

Residents commute in a pandemic-changed city

Faulty janitorial equipment likely caused Saanich school fire

Saturday morning fire damaged roof of Strawberry Vale Elementary

Islanders want BC Ferries to follow order that lets residents board before tourists

For ferry-dependent communities, ferries are often the sole practical lifeline to work, school or medical appointments.

Beverly Hills 90210 star’s family selling Vancouver Island Beach Resort

You can own Jason Priestley’s Terrace Beach Resort in Ucluelet for less than $5 million

Genetic detectives begin work to trace spread of COVID-19 in Canada

The kinds of genetic technology being used for this project did not exist when SARS hit Canada in 2003

Sports fishers protest Fraser River Chinook closures

Public Fishery Alliance wants hatchery fish open for harvest

B.C. Ferries increasing passenger capacity after COVID-19 restrictions

Transport Canada 50-per-cent limit being phased out, no current plans to provide masks

Shellfish industry get funds to clean up at Island sites and beyond

Businesses can apply to cover half of costs to clean up so-called ‘ghost gear’

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Most Read