April 22, 2002

BC Waste Management Act amendments will improve mine site cleanup process

Amendments to British Columbia's Waste Management Act, introduced this month by Water, Land and Air Protection (WLAP) Minister Joyce Murray, are intended to eliminate duplication and improve the process for rehabilitating contaminated mine sites in the province.

"These amendments will streamline and clarify the regulation of mine sites," said Murray. "Previously we had two duplicate sets of regulations for the reclamation and remediation of mine sites. This added to the cost of doing business, with no environmental benefit whatsoever. This legislation sets out one clear process for cleaning up mine sites while maintaining the same standard of environmental protection."

The legislation formalizes an agreement between WLAP and the Ministry of Energy and Mines to address mining industry concerns about having to comply with two sets of rules for agreement was reached after contaminated mine sites. The respective Ministers concluded the agreement following an extensive consultation process that began in 1999.

Under the proposed amendments, WLAP will retain responsibility under the Waste Management Act for regulating spills and discharges of pollutants at mine sites. The act also applies to historic mine sites, as these are not regulated under a Mines Act permit. For new and existing mines, reclamation and remediation work to restore the environment will continue to be regulated by the Ministry of Energy and Mines.

The amendments will also improve the contaminated sites process in two other ways.

The first deals with liability issues: current legislation allows previous owners of mines to be held legally responsible for the cleanup of any contamination caused by a new mining operator of that site. This potential liability has made owners reluctant to sell mines to companies that want to undertake further mining or mineral exploration, and thus has created a barrier to new mineral development. The proposed amendments will eliminate this future liability and encourage new mineral exploration.

Secondly, the bill harmonizes the wording in various acts to clarify generally whether contamination issues need to be addressed before new development projects can proceed.

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