Mount Polley happened. Now what? The Greens have an idea

B.C. Green Party interim leader Adam Olsen
B.C. Green Party interim leader Adam Olsen

BCBusiness discusses Mount Polley and the Greens’ vision for B.C.’s mining industry with interim leader Adam Olsen

As the province gauges the damage caused by Mount Polley’s tailings pond, the B.C. Greens has taken no pause in calling the spill a wake-up call for the government’s oversight of mines, wells and resource extraction. B.C. Green Party interim leader Adam Olsen’s proposal? Independent engineering reports of tailing storage facilities at every mine in the province. And he says that the province has the legislative power to do this.

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Are you proposing that a separate government body be created to conduct the mine inspections?
Under the Mining Act, there is a mechanism in place for the minister responsible to request from the companies that they do engineering reports on their tailing facilities. So it’s not necessarily a government agency that does it; they can appoint someone who can then ask the mines to hire a third-party company to then come in and do that third-party assessment.

Over the long-term, I think what we’re hoping is we have a mining ministry within our government that has regulation and that enforces that regulation strictly. There’s no messing around here: the human, ecosystem, environmental, social and economic costs are just too high to have this thing happen again. 

What other projects are you, and the local First Nations you’ve consulted with, concerned about?
It’s come from a number of folks that both the Mount Polley and the Gibraltar mines were very concerning to local First Nations. One of the things that I think that the Mount Polley mine has done is drawn our attention to the Fraser River and what has happened, or what is about to happen, is a very important annual process in British Columbia and that’s the return of the sockeye. 

How does mining—and specifically the revenue it provides to the provincial government—fit into the Green Party’s economic vision for B.C.?
Look, I think that mining is an important part of the economy of British Columbia, there’s no question about it. The B.C. Green Party wants to minimize ecosystem disruption as much as possible. We also are pragmatic and understand that mining is an important part of our economy and that it needs to be done in a safe and healthy way, and that includes strong oversight and regulation and a political willingness to enforce those regulations once we set them. 

Many, if not all, of the products that we use on a daily basis in our modern society are generated from some kind of mining activity at some point. We’re cognizant of that, and understand that mining will play a role in our province for generations to come if we do it properly. 

So as to whether or not we support or do not support mining, that’s not even a question. And just as the environmental disaster is a serious issue we also have to look at the economic impact of these disasters.