Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett today introduced amendments to the Mines Act that will strengthen government’s regulatory oversight of the mining industry and give the ministry additional compliance and enforcement tools.
The changes proposed today will enable government to include administrative monetary penalties as an additional compliance and enforcement tool under the Mines Act. Currently, compliance and enforcement tools under the act are limited to shutting down a mine through the cancellation of a permit, issuance of a stop-work order, or pursuing prosecutions.
Administrative monetary penalties can be imposed for contraventions without involving the courts. This type of penalty is already used by other ministries and has proven to be an efficient and effective compliance tool.
Existing penalties available for court prosecutions under the act will also increase under the amendment. The maximum penalties will be raised from the current $100,000 and/or up to one year imprisonment to $1 million and/or up to three years imprisonment.
These changes to the Mines Act will bring it in line with the other provincial natural resource legislation, including the Environmental Management Act (EMA), the Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA) and the Oil and Gas Activities Act (OGAA), all of which include administrative monetary penalties and more severe penalties for court convictions.
The amendments introduced today are part of government’s ongoing actions to implement the 26 recommendations of the independent panel and the chief inspector of mines following their respective investigations into the Mount Polley tailings storage facility (TSF) failure. Work to implement a number of these recommendations is either substantially underway or complete, including improving corporate governance, improving professional engineering practices and strengthening current regulatory operations.
Immediately following the failure at Mount Polley, the chief inspector of mines ordered inspections and third-party reviews of TSFs at all permitted mines in B.C. The inspections and reviews did not identify any immediate safety concerns and are available online at: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/topic.page?id=9F8D3F4D2F264F7FA278B528D2F08432
In addition, last January, in response to the independent panel’s recommendation to strengthen current regulatory operations, the chief inspector of mines ordered mines to confirm whether foundation materials similar to those at Mount Polley exist below any of their dams. This work was completed in June and no immediate risks or safety concerns were identified.
As well, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC) is developing new guidelines to improve professional engineering practices for dam site characterization assessments. These new guidelines will be released by summer 2016.
In response to the independent panel’s recommendation to improve corporate governance, the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) last year initiated an independent, multi-stakeholder expert task force review of its tailings management requirements and guidance documents under its Towards Sustainable Mining program. Last December, MAC released the final report from this task force and is working to implement its recommendations.
The Province also committed to implement a new requirement that all operating mines with TSFs in British Columbia establish Independent Tailings Dam Review Boards. This is being addressed as part of the ongoing code review. These boards will support improved engineering practices by providing third-party advice on the design, construction, operation and closure of TSFs.
Remaining recommendations from the independent panel and the chief inspector of mines are being addressed through the ongoing review of the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in British Columbia. The tailings storage facility portion of the Code Review is expected to be completed in this spring, and revisions could be legally in force by mid-2016. Government will also work with industry and professional organizations to ensure recommendations directed at them are implemented. It is anticipated this work will be completed by spring 2017.
Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett –
“The legislative changes I introduced today provide my ministry with more tools for compliance and enforcement, strengthening British Columbia’s regulatory framework so we can build an even safer, more sustainable mining industry in this province."
“It is my goal that B.C.’s regulatory regime for health and safety on mine sites is the best in the world and we will get there by implementing all of the recommendations of the independent expert panel and the chief inspector of mines.”
A complete list of the recommendations from the independent expert panel and the chief inspector of mines is available here: www.gov.bc.ca/minecodereview