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

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

Pnina Benyamini strikes a yoga pose. (Photo submitted)
Many facets to energetic woman’s legacy

Benyamini taught yoga, belly dancing and more to an adoring public

FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

Many retailers and businesses had voiced their frustration with a lack of mask mandate before

Island Health’s acting medical health officer for the central Island says schools are very safe, even after COVID-19 exposure at five schools in Nanaimo-Ladysmith this month. (File photo)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith and Qualicum superintendents ask Island Health about COVID-19 safety at schools

Central Island medical health officer answers questions parents have been asking

North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have ruled out fouled play in the death of a woman in Chemainus. (Black Press file photo)
No foul play in death of woman in Chemainus

Police officers make determination after an investigation

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers at the project site in Kitimat. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Forty-one positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak in Kitimat

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Firefighters try to put out a structure fire on the Island Highway in Nanoose Bay early Saturday morning. (Nanoose Bay Volunteer Fire Department photo)
Horses in nearby stable saved as building burns down in Nanoose Bay

Firefighters called out in the early-morning hours Saturday

Brenda Schroeder thought she was reading it wrong when she won $100,000 from a Season’s Greetings Scratch & Win. (Courtesy BCLC)
New home on the agenda after scratch ticket win in Saanich

Victoria woman set to share her $100,000 Season’s Greetings lottery win

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Rapid tests ‘not a panacea’ for care homes, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. lacks capacity for daily tests of thousands of workers

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

A woman being arrested at a Kelowna Value Village after refusing to wear a mask on Nov. 22.(@Jules50278750/Twitter)
VIDEO: Woman arrested for refusing to wear mask at Kelowna Value Village

RCMP claims the woman was uncooperative with officers, striking them a number of times and screaming

B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond questions NDP government ministers in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals

28-member opposition prepares for December legislature session

Most Read