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

SLIDESHOW: Chilliwack firefighters battle large blaze at Rosedale chicken barn Friday

Majority of birds saved but buildings on Castleman Road destroyed by fire

Chilliwack Fair kicks off tonight with local talent

Todd Richard and Appaloosa to hit the stage for drive-in concert at fairgrounds

VIDEO: Chilliwack chicken barn destroyed by fire

Chickens saved from blaze as firefighters work to control large fire

Seabird Island COVID-19 ‘scare’ has passed, Chief states

Reaffirmation comes during Chief Harris’s weekly video address

Firefighters bring Sts’ailes FSR fire under control

Blaze held at bay after burning 15 hectares of land

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

Fraser Valley Bandits advance to CEBL Championship Game

Bandits post comeback 76-75 win over Hamilton Honey Badgers in Saturday’s semifinal

IHIT on scene of suspicious early-morning fire on rural Mission property

Entrance to Gunn Avenue property cordoned off while investigation takes place, updates coming

Moving on: Tanev scores 11 seconds into OT as Canucks oust Wild

Vancouver beats Minnesota 5-4 to move into first round of NHL playoffs

FURTHER UPDATE: Body removed from Maple Ridge hotel after large police presence

A large contingent of Mounties were at the Art Infiniti Hotel Friday afternoon and evening

Gene editing debate takes root with organic broccoli, new UBC research shows

Broccoli is one of the best-known vegetables with origins in this scientific haze

VIDEO: U.S. Air Force pilot does fly-by for B.C. son amid COVID border separation

Sky-high father-son visit plays out over White Rock Pier

Most Read