2019 Highlight #3: Launching the Mining Law Reform Platform

This year, the ELC joined with project partners, organizations, and community groups throughout the province to officially launch a comprehensive mining law reform platform, which consists of nine reports that target specific mining law reform opportunities in BC.

Although mining has significant and ongoing impacts on communities, it is the only resource industry in BC that has never had a comprehensive legal review from a public interest perspective. The current regulations are costly to taxpayers and the environment. Disasters like the Mount Polley mine spill saw billions of litres of contaminated materials devastate Hazeltine Creek and flow into Quesnel Lake, and the mine continues to discharge tailings into the lake, which is a local drinking water supply. First Nations communities continue to spend significant time and limited resources fighting to protect pristine areas in their territories and advocating for responsible mining. Landowners are unable to stop mining activities on their private property. And all BC taxpayers foot the bill for numerous abandoned or closed mines throughout the provinces that will continue to pollute the environment indefinitely, and – if nothing is done to change the rules so companies are not held accountable – will pay for the failures of many more mines in the years to come.

The platform, BC Mining Law Reform: A Plan of Action for Change, is the result of over a year’s work achieved through our partnership with Fair Mining Collaborative, Mining Watch Canada, and First Nations Women Advocating for Responsible Mining. Nine ELC students provided research and wrote the original draft briefs.

The final project included consultations with groups throughout the province to gather feedback and to create a network, which has the formal support of over 30 Indigenous, environmental, community and scientific groups in BC.

The platform makes 69 recommendations for reform of laws for Indigenous rights, environmental assessment, granting of mineral tenures, water protection, waste management, management of closed and abandoned mines, placer mining regulation, environmental monitoring and enforcement, mine security requirements, and polluter pay requirements. In April, just prior to the release of the platform, we asked BC’s Auditor General to examine the government’s apparent failure to regulate placer mining effectively.

This publication will be an important resource for all people interested in mining law reform over the coming years. It will likely be helpful to advocates of reform in other jurisdictions, and we have already been contacted by a Brazilian lawyer working with Amazonian Indigenous groups seeking mining rules to better protect Indigenous people and the Amazon.

We expect to continue to assist educating communities as to why these mining law reforms are necessary and to understand the solutions presented in the briefs.