A Review of the Regulatory Framework for Environmental Protection in BC’s Mining Industry:
Lessons Learned from the Mount Polley Incident
Andrew Chan, MLWS 2019
In 2014, the Mount Polley mine tailings storage facility breached, spilling approximately 25 million cubic metres of water and mine tailings into the surrounding environment and nearby water bodies. Following the incident, an independent review panel and the Chief Inspector of Mines conducted investigations to determine the cause(s) of the failure and to make recommendations. The Auditor General of British Columbia also reviewed the incident during an audit of compliance and enforcement activities in the mining industry. This study was undertaken to determine areas of overlap in the recommendations across the three reports in order to identify regulatory gaps. This study conducted a review of key pieces of legislation guiding the mining industry in BC, two regulatory bodies and the three reports. The following four areas of overlap in the recommendations were identified: professional reliance, geotechnical oversight, life-of-mine planning for permitting and investigation, compliance and enforcement review. These findings suggested that additional controls should be implemented in these areas of overlap in order to prevent another tailings storage facility incident from occurring.