(Vancouver) On February 1, 2015, the BC Tap Water Alliance (BCTWA) revealed in a Media Release and in an accompanying Backgrounder that when the BC provincial government released Mount Polley Mining Corporation’s (MPMC’s) numerous Annual Environmental and Reclamation reports on January 30, 2015, they were missing “pages of information.” The missing information were the appendixes for the Annual Environmental Reports of 2001–2010, containing data, reports, figures, tables, maps, and photos. A year later, in late February 2016, the BCTWA filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for the missing appendixes, as well as earlier, preceding Annual Environmental Reports (1997–2000) and annual Water Management Plans (1998 following) which had also not been released to the public.
FOI staff eventually informed the BCTWA in early May 2016 that government had digitized all of the requested documents about a year and a half previous, in late 2014. For some unknown reason(s), government withheld the digitized reports and their “missing pages” from the Mount Polley Review Panel’s January 30, 2015 list of released documents.
FOI staff explained to the BCTWA in early March 2016 that the requested documents could not be released before being first sent to the Conservation Office Service (COS) for review and clearance approval, as the COS was conducting the government’s third and final legal investigation into MPMC’s toxic mine tailings disaster of August 4, 2014.
The BCTWA explained to FOI staff that the Annual Environmental reports were public documents, and therefore didn’t need to be reviewed or cleared by the COS. In the Ministry of Environment’s 1997 Permit, PE-11678, it states that MPMC was required to publish “a comprehensive annual [Environmental] report” by “April 30th of each year,” “in a format suitable for public release,” copies of which were also to be released to a local public library.
By early May, 2016, some two months later, FOI informed the BCTWA that the COS found no objections to FOI staff releasing the documents. FOI staff then informed the BCTWA that the requested reports would not be released until early November, 2016, some six months later. Though staff twice promised, orally, the expedited, early release to the BCTWA of just MPMC’s Annual Environmental and Reclamation Reports, they were never released.
“We have filed numerous FOI requests in the past, with rarely a problem. Why is the FOI office evidently stalling since May 2016 on the release of critical public documents on the Mount Polley mining file, and why did government fail to release these documents, alongside many other digitized reports and documents, in January, 2015,” wonders Will Koop, BCTWA Coordinator. “The withholding of these report appendixes, and other Annual Environmental reports, is egregious and bizarre, and begs the obvious questions. Is FOI really independent, and/or is it being internally guided by government executive to stall on their release?”