VANCOUVER – The British Columbia government shows a dangerous disregard for environmental monitoring, reporting and protection among mining companies by letting them off the hook for the full costs of environmental reclamation. So says a report released on May 16 by the Union of BC Indian Chiefs
. The government’s lax attitude will leave taxpayers liable for more than $1.5 billion, the report concludes.
“Other industrial sectors treat accident insurance and security deposits as a routine and fundamental cost of doing business and if a warehouse catches fire, a pipeline bursts or a factory has to be shuttered, companies have money set aside to respond effectively and immediately,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs.
Quebec and Alaska insist on full funding of project reclamation from mining, creating a powerful incentive for companies to focus on safety and best practices. “By failing to follow suit, BC has reduced this incentive and placed taxpayers at huge financial risk,” Phillip remarked.
The release by the UBCIC of the study conducted by economist Robyn Allan comes days after a scathing report by BC auditor general Carol Bellringer detailed a damning failure of the province’s environment monitoring of mines and failure to ensure companies are liable for the cost of accidents and remediation.
Allan’s analysis details how the incredibly irresponsible regime identified in the auditor general’s report has left taxpayers liable for even more than the $1 billion identified by auditor general. The analysis shows the Ministry of Energy and Mines had $1.3 billion in site reclamation costs that hadn’t been funded by mine operators as of March 31, 2014, and notes that amount could be higher today because of a spate of recent mine closures. However, the province no longer makes the figures publicly available. The province has also assumed responsibility for reclaiming abandoned mines, putting taxpayers on the hook for a further $275 million.
The UBCIC calls on the BC government to adopt Bellringer’s report and Allan’s recommendations on mining liability, including requiring companies to provide full financial security for estimated reclamation, to demonstrate they have the necessary coverage in place to cover accidents such as tailings dam collapses like the one at Mount Polley, and to establish an industry fund to cover the cost of dealing with closed and abandoned mines so taxpayers are not left to pay costs for environmental harm.
The report is online at www.UBCIC.bc.ca/bc_riskymining