Progress on ensuring polluters pay

An aerial photo of the Bell Mine in the Lake Babine Nation Territory
April 20, 2022

The Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation has released an interim policy on mine reclamation bonding, detailing the financial security mines are required to pay up front to cover the costs of reclamation. This is a significant step in the right direction toward encouraging mining companies to minimize the environmental damage they cause, and to reduce public liability to cover the costs of clean up, which was last reported at $1.1 billion. 

“After many years of waiting, this policy is coming at a time when the province is looking to ramp up mining for the clean energy transition. Implementing such a policy – that draws on international best practices and helps fulfill the province’s mandate to ensure the polluter pays – can help to position B.C. as a source of responsible minerals.”

Nikki Skuce, Director of the Northern Confluence Initiative and Co-Chair of the BC Mining Law Reform network

“The interim policy lays out a standardized approach to financial assurances requirements, incentivizes progressive reclamation, considers long-term costs like water treatment, and sets out a higher level of transparency than we see in other jurisdictions. A large gap remains, however, in how the province will deal with unexpected disasters, either from failures like we saw with Mount Polley or due to increasing climate change impacts.” 

Adrienne Berchtold, Ecologist and Mining Impacts Researcher for SkeenaWild Conservation Trust and member of the BC Mining Law Reform network

Given that this is an interim policy and that the government is engaged in a broader Public Interest Bonding Strategy, we hope to see this policy codified into regulation to improve compliance, build public confidence, and ensure a level playing field for all mining companies. We also hope that it addresses any gaps identified by Indigenous authorities who have long advocated for mines to be held responsible for the messes they create. In particular, they have advocated for a public fund, secured through a levy on production or existing royalty mechanisms, to help cover outstanding reclamation and catastrophic event costs. 

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