Victoria Reacts to Mining Audit
Prince George, B.C. – With the exception of one, the provincial government is accepting all the recommendations made in Auditor General Carol Bellringer’s audit of the province’s mining sector.
“We are well on our way to implementing the audit report’s 17 recommendations, as well as the combined 26 recommendations from the Independent Panel and the Chief Inspector of Mines,” said Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett.
The one recommendation he doesn’t support however is Bellringer’s overall recommendation to reorganize the ministry compliance and enforcement programs into a separate ministry or agency.
“This recommendation suggests that the public servants in the Ministry of Energy and Mines are incapable of differentiating between promotion, and regulation of mining, a view government does not share.”
But Bennett didn’t close the door on it noting “we have committed to having a look at that particular recommendation.”
He also noted five assertions in the report were “incorrect.” They included questions surrounding the professionalism of public servants.
“The Audit Report contains no factual evidence that the current ministry structure results in any such risk, or in a mind-set of acquiescence on the part of staff involved,” said the government.
The government also took issue with the assertion that the ministries of environment and energy and mines failed in their duties to disclose information regarding decisions on mining operations.
“In the instance of Mount Polley, there was no breach of any duty to disclose information to the public or to the Legislature.”
Another assertion the government took issue with was the inference that the ministry of mines might have been able to, through proper exercise of its regulatory powers, acted to prevent the dam failure at Mt. Polley.
“The Audit opinion is contrary to the Expert Panel finding of cause and is not reflective of the regulatory regime in place at the time.”
Bennett finally shared the following message with British Columbians.
“Government agrees that business as usual is not good enough, improvements are necessary and significant improvements are underway.”
But opposition New Democrat leader John Horgan said that’s not good enough and called for his resignation.
“The Auditor General is calling for a major overhaul of the Ministry of Energy and Mines, and government should start by replacing Mr. Bennett.”