BC Officials Vow to Hold Mining Companies to Regularly Scheduled Inspections

A spokesman for British Columbia’s Ministry of Energy and Mines says a copper/gold mine seeking permits to operate in the northwest part of the province will have to prove that the tailings facility performs to design specifications.

Those are the requirements of a temporary permit granted to the officials for the Red Chris Mine, owned by Imperial Metals, the same company that owns the Mount Polley copper/gold mine, the scene of a massive tailings facility disaster last year.

Energy and Mines spokesman David Haslam said in an email statement Feb. 24, in response to an inquiry, that only if the tailings facility performed as per design specifications would the mining company be issued approval to continue to operate its North Tailings dam facility, and that would be contingent on the company being able to construct the additional lifts as required by the design engineers.

Once the Red Chris mine is producing tailings, the company would have regularly scheduled compliance inspection programs to complete, including daily visual inspections, he said.

Approval of the interim permit is not sitting well with the transboundary environmental group Rivers Without Borders, whose spokesman, Chris Zimmer, said it was “reckless for British Columbia to permit the kind of outdated watered tailings facility at Red Chris that failed at Mount Polley.”

The interim permit for the Red Chris mine is just the latest concern of Alaskan commercial, sport and subsistence fishing groups, conservationists and others concerned that several British Columbia mines could have adverse impact on transboundary fisheries critical to the economy of Southeast Alaska.

They have been working with Alaska’s congressional delegation in hopes of getting an international joint commission– with three members from Canada and three from the US – to look into their concerns.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R- Alaska, said she has spoken with her Canadian counterparts and Secretary of State John Kerry about an international joint commission on the matter started, but so far the idea has not won support from the Canadian government. Murkowski said maybe what is needed is to direct the US. Environmental Protection Agency to do some baseline monitoring to know what current conditions are in the transboundary rivers, but that the IJC is the real forum for these transboundary conversations.