The road to reforming mining in B.C.

2019 brought partial victories, but the hard work lies ahead

This week B.C. ministers George Heyman and Doug Donaldson announced the provincial government would end logging in the “donut hole,” an unprotected piece of the Skagit River headwaters next to Manning Park. But Imperial Metals still holds a mining tenure in the same area, and is hoping for a permit to start a new drilling program.

It’s one of many partial victories around the province, as local communities wait to see if this government is serious about Indigenous rights, freshwater protection – and holding big mining companies accountable.

Tsilhqot’in take on Taseko

Over the summer, members of the Tsilhqot’in Nation took action to defend Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) from exploratory drilling without their consent. Despite being the first Indigenous Nation in Canada to prove rights and title to their territory, Taseko Mines LTD has tried for decades to force through an open pit mine in an area sacred to the Tsilhqot’in people.

Tsilhqotin Taseko roadblock

Members of the Tsilhqot’in Nation politely turn back Taseko manager Finn Conradsen on the road to Teztan Biny. Photo by Nolan Guichon.

In September, a judge granted the Tsilhqot’in an injunction against the mining company. The future of the New Prosperity mine remains uncertain. That’s because Taseko’s environmental assessment (EA) certificate expires in January. After that, they’ll need to apply for a new certificate under new EA legislation that goes into effect in 2020.

New environmental assessment legislation will require better collaboration and consultation with Indigenous communities. The wheels on this new legislation were set in motion over a year ago. During the summer of 2018, hundreds of Dogwood supporters participated in the Environmental Assessment Office’s open comment period. They overwhelmingly demanded that any new process respect Indigenous rights and better collaborate with communities. The government listened.

We’ll be keeping an eye on Taseko’s plans to drill in Teztan Biny but if the company has any sense, it will throw in the towel.

Getting Imperial’s pipes out of Quesnel Lake

Years after the Mount Polley mine dam collapsed, sending billions of litres of mine waste down the Fraser River, pipes continue to spew untreated mine waste into Quesnel Lake. The Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake, a grassroots community group, is calling on the government to remove the discharge pipes.

Imperial Metals Quesnel Lake discharge pipe

Imperial Metals pumps up to 50 million litres of mine waste a day straight into Quesnel Lake.

On November 27, the Ministry of Environment met with local residents on the shores of Quesnel Lake.
Despite the ministry’s promise to exclude Imperial Metals’ representatives in the meeting, three members of their upper management were in attendance. This was nothing less than infuriating and intimidating for the residents of Quesnel Lake. And to make matters worse, despite multiple instances of non-compliance with the pipe’s permits, the ministry has no plans to remove the pipes in the near future.

Who granted the permit in the first place? Christy Clark, on her final days in office. Murray Edwards — Imperial Metals’ billionaire shareholder — also happens to be quite close to the former B.C. premier. In 2013 he held a million dollar fundraiser for her re-election bid. The relationship is a glaring example of industry’s influence over our political system.

Save the Skagit

If a company responsible for one of the biggest mining disasters in Canadian history wanted to start a new project in your backyard, you would understandably feel a little uneasy. And if the company hadn’t faced any fines or charges? Given what little remediation work that has been done was paid for by taxpayers?

That might make you want to call into question those deciding on the permit.

Over the summer we had hundreds of similar conversations with people in the Kootenays. At farmer’s markets and community events across mining ministerMichelle Mungall’s riding, we talked to people worried about another Mount Polley disaster happening again. That’s why a broad coalition is calling to stop Imperial Metals from drilling for gold in the Skagit River headwaters.

The proposed project is on an unprotected island known as the “donut hole”. It’s surrounded by Skagit Valley and Manning Provincial parks. The riveris home to some of the biggest salmon runs in the Salish Sea. It’s also home to important grizzly bear and spotted owl habitat.

To permit or not to permit

The area is also favoured by outdoor recreationists. Paul Berntsen and Nicole Bellay applied for a permit to lead non-motorized backcountry tours. They wanted skiers and mountain bikers to experience this beautiful place in a way that respects the ecosystem. Unfortunately, their permit application was rejected. The province stated concerns over human activity impacting wildlife.

Will the government apply the same considerations to Imperial’s application to drill for gold near Manning Park? Or will the province hand Imperial Metals a holiday gift and grant the permit, despite their decision to ban logging in the same area? That may be up to you.

Tell the B.C. government: No Mount Polley in Manning Park!

8 Responses to “The road to reforming mining in B.C.”

  1. Bev Sellars says:

    Mining laws need to be updated. The environment has to be protected over money. Maybe the government should look at ways of reducing junk people buy. Quality products no longer seem to exist anymore. The stock market should not dictate the mining being done. When are people going to realize we are committing a slow suicide and if resource extraction doesn’t destroy the adults, we leave one hell of a mess and uncertainty for our children and grandchildren.

  2. Dewey says:

    The mining, logging, and oil companies only care about making money, not how they make it, or where they make it, or who they have to step on to make it. They cannot be allowed to irresponsibly plunder the the planet.

  3. Denis Turgeon says:

    Please practise the same humanitarian ideals which you were elected to uphold. Are we so desperate to placate $$$$$ while sacrificing our environment? Lead by example with courage to be different than the past. ( Liberals ) Thank you for your successes of the last eighteen months

  4. Sean Daly says:

    Imperial Metals has shown themselves at Mt Polley to be very negligible with the environment and without being penalized so to provide them with an exploration permit near Manning Park is definitely giving the wrong message to mining companies in BC and they need to be held responsible for the damage caused by their negligence.

  5. Mike Gildersleeve says:

    I am urging provincial gov’t to to absolutely grant No permits to Imperial Metals for mineral exploration/drilling in or near Manning Park.

  6. Tony Brumell says:

    We’ve known this for 50 years. It is so self evident that even the politicians should see it .But they don’t want to.The answers are there but they won’t listen because they are to attached to power and money.There are non so blind as those who WILL NOT see. Maybe you can sit down with Horgan and force a vision on him.

  7. Douglas Jackson says:

    The resource sector in British Columbia is regulated, or not, by government legislation and or permits provided by government(s) who’s sole priority, above all else, are jobs, economic prosperity and donations to the party.

    Environmental concerns and sustainability within the resource sectors fall a distant second place in the scheme of the governments sponsored plundering of British Columbia.

    The concerns of British Columbia’s residents about the continued unsustainable destruction of vast areas within BC directly caused by poor mining and poor forestry policies and regulations are countered by government double speak, which is short on truth and long on misleading claims.

    Allowing private sector companies operating across British Columbia to get away with egregious destruction while remediation costs are heaped onto the backs of taxpayers makes government the number one threat to what they love to promote as “Super Natural British Columbia”. There is nothing super natural left around Quesnel Lake and if you follow the link above, you will see for yourself what the future of “Super Natural British Columbia” will look like.

    We are all paying the price for the failures, past and present, of governments that are not responding to the needs and wishes of all residents of British Columbia. Time for us to get involved and protect our Province from those we have entrusted to act on our behalf.

  8. Archibald Henderson says:

    Imperial Metals should NOT be considered for ANYTHING in the province until they have paid back to the people what has been spent on the clean-ups of their messes. Maybe require a HUGE bond be posted by the company to pay for all cleanup costs from any new disasters, both on their new projects AND on existing things too. They profit – they pay damages!

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