Mining

Unmonitored Mining Pollutes Fraser River, Threatens Salmon Runs: Report

Fraser River

Hundreds of placer mines, which have never undergone environmental assessments, are operating in the Fraser River watershed with minimal government oversight despite mounting evidence that the operations pollute water and harm salmon, a report by the Fair Mining Collaborative has found.

Placer mining involves digging up gravel adjacent to streams and rivers and washing it to extract the gold or other minerals in the sediment. In addition to mines that use excavation equipment, there are thousands of hand-mining operations, many of which do not have permits, the report found.

The report, commissioned by First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining (FNWARM), calls for a moratorium on claim staking and work permits until the process is reformed and adequate safeguards are put in place, with First Nations given a partnership role in coming up with rules and regulations.

I go around our territory and see all the destruction in the back country. It’s criminal if you ask me,” Bev Sellars, FNWARM chair and former chief of the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation, said in an interview.

B.C. Quietly Grants Mount Polley Mine Permit to Pipe Mine Waste Directly Into Quesnel Lake

Mount Polley Tailings Pond Collapse

The B.C. Ministry of Environment has quietly granted the Mount Polley Mining Corporation permission to drain mining waste directly into Quesnel Lake, B.C.’s deepest fjord lake and a source of drinking water for residents of Likely, B.C., as part of a “long-term water management plan.”

The wastewater discharge permit comes nearly three years after the collapse of the Mount Polley mine tailings pond spilled an estimated 25 million cubic metres of mining waste into Quesnel Lake, in what is considered the worst mining disaster in Canadian history. 

No charges and no fines have been laid for the spill that cost B.C. taxpayers an estimated $40 million in cleanup costs and that B.C.’s chief mine inspector, Al Hoffman, found was the result of “poor practices” and “non-compliances.” 

Some critics feel the new wastewater discharge permit simply grants Mount Polley the permission to continue polluting Quesnel Lake.

B.C. Rejects Request for Inquiry into Mining Practices

energy and mines minister bill bennett

Widespread criticism of B.C.’s mining rules is undeserved according to Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett, who has turned down a recommendation from the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre for a judicial inquiry into mining regulation.

Given the significant changes this government has made to how mining is undertaken and overseen in British Columbia, including changes to law and policy, additional resources to improve permitting processes and significantly strengthened compliance and enforcement, Government categorically disagrees that a Commission of Public Enquiry (sic) into the Province’s mining industry serves the taxpayers of B.C. Such a process would be demonstrably redundant,” Bennett wrote in a letter to the ELC.

The response has exasperated Calvin Sandborn, ELC legal director, who said the rejection is likely to cost B.C. taxpayers dearly because of immense costs of mine reclamation where environmental damage has been caused by poor government oversight and minimal enforcement of the polluter-pay principle.

Tweet: “You can pay for an awful lot of public inquiries if you avoid just 1 disaster.” http://bit.ly/2oV8Jsr #bcpoli #cdnpoli #Alaska #bcelxn17You can pay for an awful lot of public inquiries if you avoid just one disaster,” said Sandborn, who points to how previous public inquiries have improved regulatory systems and helped restore public confidence.

Comparing Mine Management in B.C. and Alaska is Embarrassing (and Explains Why Alaskans Are So Mad)

Tulsequah Chief Mine. CSMPhoto

Alaskans tired of living under the threat of B.C.’s poorly regulated mines are taking the matter to the state’s House Fisheries Committee in an effort to escalate an international response to ongoing issues such as the slow leakage of acidic waste from the deserted Tulsequah Chief Mine in northwest B.C. into the watershed of one of the richest salmon runs in the B.C./Alaska transboundary region.

On Thursday the committee will assess a resolution sponsored by several House Representatives “urging the United States government to continue to work with the government of Canada to investigate the long-term, region-wide downstream effects of proposed and existing industrial development and to develop measures to ensure that state resources are not harmed by upstream development in B.C.”

Although Tulsequah is a catalyst, concerns go deeper as B.C. is handing out permits for a clutch of proposed new mines close to the Alaskan border, including the KSM mine, the largest open-pit gold and copper mine in North America.

British Columbians Saddled With $40 Million Clean-Up Bill as Imperial Metals Escapes Criminal Charges

Mount Polley Mine Disaster

British Columbian taxpayers will be on the hook for $40 million to clean up the worst mining spill in Canadian history and the company responsible has once again escaped criminal charges after a private prosecution was dismissed this week. 

In August 2014 the 40-metre-high tailings dam at the Mount Polley mine near Williams Lake collapsed, sending 25-million cubic metres of contaminated sludge and mine waste sweeping into lakes and rivers — but no charges have been laid and no fines have been levied against Imperial Metals, the parent company of Mount Polley Mining Corp.

Since 2005, Mount Polley Mining Corp and Imperial Metals Corp have donated $195,010 to British Columbia’s ruling B.C. Liberal party.

Public Inquiry Formally Requested to Investigate B.C.’s Shoddy Mining Rules

The ramshackle regulatory system governing B.C.’s mining industry is profoundly dysfunctional and the public has lost confidence in the province’s ability to protect the environment and communities from poor mining activities, says a new report from the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre.

The wide-ranging report, released Wednesday, was commissioned for the Fair Mining Collaborative — a non-profit group that helps First Nations communities assess mining activities — and recommends that the provincial government establish a Commission of Public Inquiry to investigate B.C.’s regulation of the mining industry.

A judicial inquiry is needed because mining is a multi-billion dollar industry that can create jobs and great wealth, but can also create “catastrophic and long-lasting threats to entire watersheds and to critical public assets such as fish, clean water, wildlife and public health,” according to the report, which is signed by ELC legal director Calvin Sandborn and law student Kirsty Broadhead.

Tsilhqot’in Ready for Yet Another Fight if B.C. Grants Mine Exploration Permits Denied by Feds

Tsilhqot'in man beats a drum at Fish Lake, site of the proposed Taseko New Prosperity Mine. Photo by Garth Lenz.

A bizarre twist in a decade-long battle over a proposed mine on Tsilhqot’in Nation traditional territory could see the B.C. government issue extensive exploration permits for the mine this month even though the project has twice been turned down by the federal government.

The proposal by Taseko Mines Ltd. to build a $1.5-billion open pit, copper and gold mine in the Cariboo region — a plan which received vocal support from Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett — was approved in 2010 by the provincial government after a B.C. environmental assessment.

But, the same year, the Prosperity Mine was rejected by the federal review panel, which took a dim view of plans to drain Fish Lake, known to Tsilhqot’in as Teztan Biny, for use as a tailings pond.

The company took a second shot with a proposal for the New Prosperity Mine, which would save Fish Lake and situate the tailings pond two kilometres away in a smaller lake. But, the federal government again turned it down in 2014, despite a trip to Ottawa by Bennett in an effort to persuade the federal government of the importance of the mine to the economy of B.C.

Mining Giant Taseko Seeks to Revive B.C. Gold Mine Twice-Rejected by Harper Government

Two rejections by the federal government have not deterred a Vancouver mining company from again heading to court in an effort to quash Ottawa’s decision to turn down a proposal for an open-pit copper and gold mine in an area where the Tsilhqot’in Nation has established aboriginal rights.

Taseko Mines Ltd. is appearing in Federal Court in Vancouver this week to launch a constitutional challenge to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and ask for a judicial review of the federal government’s decision to reject the proposed $1.5-billion New Prosperity Mine, 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake.

Despite the project gaining provincial approval in 2010, the federal government turned down the proposal in 2010 and 2014, saying there would be severe environmental damage and immitigable adverse effects on Tsilhqot’in culture, heritage and aboriginal rights.

B.C.'s 150-Year-Old Mining Laws Are Absurdly Outdated. Guess Who Benefits From That?

B.C. was recently labelled the “Wild West” in a New York Times article for our lack of financial rules or limits around political donations. While mining companies and their executives regularly fall within the top donors’ list to the B.C. Liberal Party, they have benefited from this notion of the Wild West for well over a century. 

In fact, B.C.’s mining laws were created more than 150 years ago during the gold-rush era of the 1850s. These laws were largely created by miners themselves to help guarantee unfettered access to new lands by creating the right of “free entry,” and were part of the strategy to help settle the colony. Tweet: Today, mining activity is still given priority over virtually all other land uses in B.C. http://bit.ly/2kMIz5I #bcpoli #bcmining #cdnpoliToday, mining activity is still given priority over virtually all other land uses in B.C.

In fact, the process for staking a claim has only gotten easier. Are you 18 years old, have $25 and access to a computer? Click and you have a claim staked anywhere — on private property, First Nations hunting grounds, key tourism areas, important salmon habitat or wildlife management areas. Mining activities are off-limits only in parks, under buildings and at certain archeological sites. In other words, mining exploration can take place in over 82 per cent of the province.

Federal Government Seeks to Quash Lawsuit Against Mount Polley and B.C. Government Before Evidence Heard

The federal government is seeking to stay a private lawsuit brought against Mount Polley Mining Corporation and the B.C. government in October 2016, nearly 30 months after the collapse of the Mount Polley tailings pond spilled 25-million cubic metres of contaminated mining waste into Quesnel Lake, a source of drinking water for residents of Likely, B.C.

Now the federal government is seeking a withdrawal of the criminal charges before MiningWatch Canada — the organization that first brought the charges, which claim the company and the province violated the federal Fisheries Act — has been given the opportunity to present evidence.

We were stunned that the federal Crown does not even want us to show the court that there was enough evidence to justify proceeding with a prosecution against both the B.C. government and [the Mount Polley Mining Corporation] for the worst mining spill in Canadian history,” Ugo Lapointe, Canada Program Coordinator for MiningWatch, said.

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