‘When are they going to ensure the polluter pays?’: proposed B.C. mining reforms don’t go far enough

The Narwhal

A plan to update the province’s antiquated Mines Act will bring more independent oversight of mines but doesn’t address lax regulations that leave responsibility for clean-up costs, such as in the Mount Polley mine disaster, in the hands of taxpayers

Judith Lavoie 

Proposed reforms to B.C.’s mining act are a positive step but taxpayers are still on the hook for costly clean-up costs, according to Calvin Sandborn, legal director of the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre.

Sandborn, who has been at the forefront of efforts to reform B.C.’s antiquated mining laws, said while the proposed changes to B.C.’s mining regime address a lack of independent oversight of the industry, they don’t tackle the long laundry list of problems associated with B.C.’s growing mining industry.

That’s because the proposed mining reforms, released last month and now open for public comment, deal only with the Mines Act and not the Mineral Tenure Act, which allows mining claims to be staked by nearly anyone in the world who has access to a computer, even if those claims lie within Indigenous traditional territory or sensitive ecosystems. 

The suggested changes also don’t address ballooning liabilities associated with mining operations. The Environmental Law Centre has pegged the liability costs for old mines in B.C. at $1 billion, while a report from watchdog group MiningWatch Canada estimated the figure to be closer to $3 billion.

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