Letter: Important piece missing on auditor general’s mine report

One very important factor had been absent from the coverage of Auditor General Carol Bellringer’s scathing report.

Editor:

One very important factor had been absent from the coverage of Auditor General Carol Bellringer’s scathing report on the failings of the province’s mine monitoring, and massively underfunded liabilities for mine accidents and polluting abandoned projects — the role of First Nations in providing solutions.

Ms. Bellringer’s report vindicates what B.C. First Nations have been saying for years, the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Ministry of Environment fail to protect British Columbians from the environmental risk, monitoring of mine projects is weak, and taxpayers are on the hook for damages because liability funding is woefully inadequate.

The auditor general calls for independent monitoring. First Nations are in the perfect position, with capacity building and training assistance, to provide this service through shared decision-making on permitting, and direct participation in independent monitoring and enforcement, through our own environmental guardians programmes on our lands.

Then there is the matter of taxpayers being on the hook for up to $1 billion in unfunded liabilities for mine remediation.

In fact that liability can only increase as new projects come on line.

This risk was pointed out last year in the First Nation’s Energy and Mining Council’s report on the threat of mining to northeastern B.C.’s watersheds.

That report called, among other things, for a “Superfund” to be created to ensure taxpayers are not left to pick up the tab for accidents and to make sure remedial work is done.

First Nations have not been waiting for the BC government to wake up. For example, the North Shuswap Tribal Council has already enacted its own detailed mining policy and tool kits and that other are following suit.

We know that,  while making sure only the right projects proceed  in the right way is crucially important, so is ensuring that existing or future mines operate under the conditions laid down for them, that the effluence and other environmental impacts are properly monitored, and that remediation work is done.

Our First Nations are the ones who know their lands and waters. We  have a totally vested interest in ensuring they are protected as we are the ones on the front lines if anything goes wrong, as it did with Mount Polley.

If Minister Bill Bennett and his government genuinely accept the AG’s report and want to respond in a meaningful way, it should immediately begin working with our First Nations to help them build the capacity and gain the training to set up guardian programmes.

Bev Sellars

Chair, BC’s First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A 100 Mile RCMP officer stands watch at the intersction of Highway 97 and Horse Lake Road. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Volunteers, police search Highway 97 for articles related to high-speed chase

Search will stretch from Canco Gas Station in Lac La Hache to 150 Mile House.

An aerial photograph captures snowmobile tracks in the Cameron Ridge area earlier this year, which is closed to snowmobilers. The closures are in place to protect sensitive caribou herds. (Conservation Officer Service photo)
Snowmobilers fined for operating in closed caribou habitat near Likely, B.C.

The investigation revealed they had spent several hours in the closure leaving extensive tracks

The RCMP arrest one of the suspects on Highway 97 courtesy of cell phone footage shot by a bystander. (April Thomas photo)
WATCH: Two suspects arrested after multi-jurisdictional chase

A half dozen police cars were seen heading north on Highway 97

Commercial tenants at the Williams Lake Regional Airport have been granted an additional six-month rent reprieve. (Angie Mindus file photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Continuing rent relief for Williams Lake Airport tenants considered

City council discussed the option during a committee of the whole meeting

The Grade 2 class of 150 Mile House Elementary attended Cariboo Memorial Hospital with teacher Kirsty Bowers to deliver “kindness” bags full of small gifts to housekeeping staff. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
150 Mile House students deliver gift bags showing appreciation for hospital staff

Students begin Monday morning with a bus trip to Cariboo Memorial Hospital

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

This poster, spreading misinformation regarding COVID-19 restrictions, has been popping up in communities across Vancouver Island.
Poster popping up on Vancouver Island falsely claims COVID restrictions are over

Unattributed poster claims COVID restrictions ended March 1; Island Health responds

COVID-19 vaccines were available at a site on East Pender in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Feb. 25. (Twitter/Sarahblyth17)
Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside residents offered $5 after getting COVID-19 vaccine

It’s an effort to ‘incentivize people to engage,’ says B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix

</p>
A survey by Statistics Canada finds Black Canadians earn less than non-visible minority Canadians despite having higher levels of education. (The Canadian Press file photo)
COVID-19 worsened unemployment picture for Black Canadians

Black Canadians also more likely to suffer other hardships

On June 23, 2020, Sunrise Rotary announced it will be donating $50,000 in support of the Bridge Youth and Family Services for the construction of the “Okanagan Youth Recovery House” project for young people under the age of 19 who are experiencing addiction. (Contributed)
Interior Health adds 10 youth substance-use treatment beds in the Okanagan

The Bridge Youth and Family Services will operate the beds

(Black Press Media files)
B.C. teacher transferred then suspended after students report feeling ‘scared, nervous’

Authorities found that teacher did not create inviting, respectful environment for students

Victoria’s Swartz Bay terminal. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries offers cheaper, prepaid fare options

Ferry service preparing for busy terminals when travel restrictions are lifted

FILE - Dolly Parton arrives at the 61st annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 10, 2019, in Los Angeles. The Grammy-winning singer, actor and humanitarian posted a video on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, of her singing just before getting her COVID-19 vaccine shot. Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee for coronavirus research. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP, File)
‘Vaccine, vaccine’: Dolly sings ‘Jolene’ rewrite before shot

The Grammy-winning legend turned 75 this year

Most Read