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Source: Government of British Columbia

Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources
Mines Act updates to improve permitting, regulation in B.C.

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Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources
British Columbia News
Mines Act updates to improve permitting, regulation in B.C.
https://news.gov.bc.ca/22452

News Release

Victoria
Monday, June 22, 2020 1:40 PM

News Release
Victoria
Monday, June 22, 2020 1:40 PM

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Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources
Media Relations250 952-0628

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More effective mines permitting and better protection of workers, the environment and the public are among proposed updates to the Mines Act.
“With the changes we are bringing forward today, our government continues to act on the unanimous recommendations of the Mining Jobs Task Force to strengthen B.C.’s mining sector and improve the permitting process,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources. “The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced that health and safety must remain a top priority as we continue to build a strong economic recovery that works for people.”
If passed, the legislation will create a new chief permitting officer position, distinct from the chief inspector of mines. The chief permitting officer will ensure the mine permitting process is efficient and effective. The chief inspector will retain responsibility for health, safety and enforcement.
The legislation will further strengthen government’s ability to hold mines accountable. These changes include strengthening investigation authorities, clarifying offence provisions and increasing the limitation period from three to five years in both the Mines Act and the Environmental Management Act.
The proposed changes will also formalize the creation of the Mine Audits and Effectiveness Unit, led by a chief auditor. This unit will conduct audits to ensure mining regulation in B.C. is effective and aligned with global best practices.
The proposed changes were informed by lessons learned from the Mount Polley disaster, recommendations from the Office of the Auditor General and the Mining Jobs Task Force, consultation with stakeholders and input received during the 2019 public comment period on the proposed changes to the Mines Act.
A more efficient and effective permitting process, strengthened regulatory oversight and the creation of an audit function will support quality economic growth for British Columbians while ensuring mining is conducted safely and responsibly.
Quick Facts:
B.C.’s mining industry had an estimated value of production of nearly $9 billion in 2019. 
In 2018-19, the B.C. mining industry paid over $400 million in mineral taxes to the Province.
Each direct job at a mine or smelter in B.C. supports at least two jobs in supply or services.
Learn More:
The Mines Audit and Effectiveness Unit has more information available on its web page:https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/mineral-exploration-mining/13315
The What We Heard report following the Mines Act public review and comment period is available online:https://engage.gov.bc.ca/govtogetherbc/impact/proposal-for-changes-to-the-mines-act-results/
The Mining Jobs Task Force report and recommendations are available online:https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/business/natural-resource-industries/mineral-exploration-and-mining/memp_10535_task_force_report_final-rev.pdf
A backgrounder follows.

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Media Contacts

Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources
Media Relations250 952-0628

Backgrounders

Proposed changes to the Mines Act will separate regulatory accountabilities, establish the audit function for the ministry and strengthen compliance and enforcement. Specifically, the proposed amendments include:
New chief permitting officer
Designated by the minister, the chief permitting officer will be a new statutory decision-maker responsible for permitting decisions under the Mines Act.
Prior to these amendments, the chief inspector of mines was responsible for both permitting decisions and for health and safety and enforcement under the Mines Act.
Separating statutory accountability for permitting from health and safety will improve permitting and allow the chief inspector to focus on health, safety and enforcement accountabilities.
New audit function
At the direction of a newly created statutory decision-maker position (chief auditor), audits will evaluate the effectiveness of the regulatory system for mining in British Columbia in protecting the public, workers and the environment.
Each audit will generally include an assessment of industry performance and trends, ministry actions and current regulatory requirements.
Auditors will have the authority to enter mines, gather information and issue orders where imminent threats to persons, property or the environment are identified.

The chief auditor is designated by the minister and will be independent from the functions of permitting, health and safety and enforcement.
The chief auditor will publish an annual audit plan, identifying audit priorities for the year, and will publish audit reports after the completion of each audit setting out conclusions, reasons and recommendations.
Compliance and enforcement enhancements
Stronger order authorities to protect the environment:Where an inspector believes a delay in remedying a hazard would be dangerous to the environment, the inspector may order mine closure or suspension of work until remedial action is taken.
Broader authority for the chief inspector to take action when needed:The chief inspector may now enter any mine and take action where there is an emergency to prevent danger to persons, property or the environment, with strengthened abilities to recover costs.
Clarified offences and longer limitation period:It is an offence to contravene a condition of a permit or provide false or misleading information to any Mines Act official. In addition, the limitation period for commencing an offence prosecution under the Mines Act and Environmental Management Act will be extended from three years to five years.
Broader Investigation Authority:The authority for the chief inspector to conduct investigations into serious matters has been broadened to include any incident that caused or had the potential to cause personal injury, loss of life, property or environmental damage.
Authority to bring persons and equipment on inspections:Explicit authority has been added for an inspector to bring any person and equipment that the inspector considers necessary for the inspection. This includes Indigenous accompaniment on inspections. 

https://news.gov.bc.ca/22452

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