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Poll says Kootenay residents support environmental bonding for mine clean ups: Wildsight

B.C. residents think the government should require bonding for cost of clean ups. Wildsight image

Kootenay-based environmental group Wildsight recently commissioned a poll through Research Co. to get a feel for people’s thoughts on the cost of environmental damage caused by industry.

This comes on the heels of a report found Teck underestimated the cost of partially cleaning up water pollution from the Elk Valley, which would essentially leave taxpayers to cover the difference. Teck disputes the numbers found in the report.

READ: Elk Valley selenium cleanup could cost $6.4B — 3 times what’s set aside: report

READ: Teck disputes reports findings, takes issue with report estimates and “inconsistent” calculations

While the poll was B.C. wide, Conservation Director at Wildsight, Casey Brennan, says that they also have a subsample of just Kootenay residents, so that there would be results not impacted by those outside the region.

“We found similar results to the B.C. wide results (some responses were even stronger in support of our call for adequate bonding than the province wide results),” Brennan said.

Nine in ten Kootenay residents (92 per cent) believe the cost of environmental restoration and clean up should be fully covered by the companies responsible for the damage, according to the province-wide poll.

“The results couldn’t paint a clearer picture,” Brennan said. “The province continues to heavily subsidize the mining industry with exploration tax credits, lower carbon taxes and other ‘incentive’ schemes. Residents want to know they’re not going to be saddled with the cost of cleaning up the mining industry’s messes on top of all their other financial burdens.

“More than half of Kootenay residents think the province’s regulation of pollution and environmental damage from mining isn’t tough enough, and 80 per cent want politicians to do more to stand up to corporate polluters. “

Two thirds of residents also reported little confidence in foreign companies like Glencore, the Swiss mining company trying to take over the mines from Teck.

READ: Commitments key as elected officials react to $9B Teck coal sale

“People are worried they’re going to be left to fund the clean up of this environmental catastrophe, and that fear is not unfounded. Kootenay residents want to see the government doing more to protect them — an overwhelming majority (86 per cent) say Canada should require Glencore to give financial assurances to cover the entire cost of environmental restoration for these mines before the sale goes through.”

The poll was conducted from March 26 to April 4, with a total of 1,531 interviews with a plus or minus 2.46 and 95 per cent confidence level.

The Mining Association of British Columbia put out a media statement in response to the poll.

Association President Michael Goehring says the poll presents an inaccurate portrayal of the industry. He says the questions were designed to yield responses that would align with Wildsight’s agenda, and cast a negative light on the mining industry.

“The questions also fail to provide participants with a comprehensive and factual understanding of how mining companies continuously invest in reclamation and remediation throughout their operations,” he said in the statement. “For example, one of the poll questions incorrectly implies the BC government sets the financial guarantees or bonding values by using estimates from mining companies. However, under the Mines Act, the chief permitting officer has the power to decide the amount and form of reclamation security for mine permit holders.

“BC’s reclamation security policy mandates substantial bonding requirements for major mines that surpass those of most other global jurisdictions. This ensures mine operators cover the full costs of the environmental reclamation obligations associated with mine closure, at no cost to taxpayers. Since 2015, BC mining companies have significantly increased the reclamation security amount held by the provincial government by over $2.7 billion, bringing the total to over $3.7 billion. We expect to close the gap between the estimated reclamation liability and reclamation security within two years. The BC mining industry strongly supports a bonding policy that assures the general public, local communities, and Indigenous Nations that mining operations will undergo proper reclamation and restoration upon closure.

“Additionally, it’s important to note the significant reforms implemented by the BC government over the past decade to modernize and strengthen mining laws and regulations. These reforms include implementing a new BC Mines Act, a revised Health, Safety and Reclamation Code and a new major mines reclamation security policy to ensure sufficient funds for the environmental restoration of closed mines without burdening taxpayers.”

Carolyn Grant

About the Author: Carolyn Grant

I have been with the Kimberley Bulletin since 2001 and have enjoyed every moment of it.
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