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Audit finds improvements in major mine oversight, with some exceptions

An audit of policies implemented by B.C.’s Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation revealed some areas of improvement in the industry’s oversight and others that could use more work.

According to B.C. government officials, the report on the Oversight of Major Mines points out a series of structural and regulatory changes made within the industry.

This includes establishing a new investigations unit, processes to write mine permits with more enforceable language, and enhancing compliance and enforcement procedures.

“The ministry has made progress since our 2016 audit,” said Auditor General Michael Pickup. “Overall, the ministry’s improved oversight means it’s better equipped to address risks associated with the mining sector while the provincial economy receives benefits from mining activity.”

According to the report, the ministry has established a consistent approach to address serious incidents, and an internal audit process to look into the effectiveness of the ministry’s mining regulatory framework.

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The ministry also set up a reclamation security policy for major mines, with a plan to better ensure reclamation obligations can be met.

The report also noted that the Abandoned Mines Branch was established to mitigate the risks to public safety and address environmental risks at abandoned sites.

Provincial officials said some shortcomings in mine oversight were also outlined.

“The audit finds a few areas for further improvement,” said Pickup. “For example, the ministry needs written procedures for geotechnical inspections, a consistent approach to reviewing reports from mine operators throughout the year, and a risk-based approach to address environmental concerns at abandoned mines.”

The report also makes five recommendations that focus on developing and implementing compliance and enforcement policies, historic permits, reclamation liabilities and abandoned mines.

B.C. Government officials said the ministry has accepted all of the recommendations.

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