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

COVID-19 tests come back negative in remote First Nation community

“There are no suspected cases in the community at this time.”

Wildway Farms open for business in Hagensborg

Local entrepreneurs Gwyneth Anderson and Joseph Battensby are hard at work at their new business

Young boy finds mask stolen during recent break-in

Gage Pootlass immediately took the mouse mask back to its rightful owner, Kathleen Booth

Bear gets into garbage at Thorsen Creek Landfill after waste disposed into wrong bin

A grizzly bear accessed garbage that was put in the wrong bin and ended up outside the electric fence

578 British Columbians currently infected with COVID-19

Seventy-eight new cases confirmed in past 24 hours

Conservation seizes fawn illegally kept captive in Vancouver Island home

A Comox Valley resident charged and fined under the Wildlife Act

Pandemic could be driving more parents to get on board with flu shot: study

University of B.C. study gauges willingness for parents to vaccinate children for influenza

Watchdog clears Okanagan RCMP in death of man after arrest over alleged stolen pizzas

The man died in hospital after having difficulty breathing and broken ribs

Have you seen Berleen? B.C. pig destined for sanctuary goes missing

Berleen was less than two weeks from travelling to Manitoba when she vanished

Health Canada says several kids hospitalized after eating edible pot products

People warned not to store cannabis products where children can find them

‘It’s not just about me’: McKenna cites need to protect politicians from threats

Police investigation was launched after someone yelled obscenities at a member of McKenna’s staff

Michigan plans dedicated road lanes for autonomous vehicles

First study of its kind in the U.S. to figure out whether existing lanes or shoulders could be used

Most Read