It’s quiet out there. Perhaps it’s chagrin. Perhaps it’s the nausea caused by the prospect of a stock plummet. But in the muddy wake of Mount Polley, you don’t hear much noise emanating from the mining industry and its government acolytes.
Yes, Mines Minister Bill Bennett assured us the disaster has caused him to lose sleep. (Poor man! Would that he was awake earlier on his watch.)
And the Mining Association of B.C., in response to Mount Polley, has affected an air of scientific curiosity, as coroners might at an autopsy. It is waiting, as was explained to the public, to see what caused the containment pond breach. Meanwhile, Angela Waterman, the association’s vice-president of environment and technical affairs, endeavoured to dampen the disaster’s impact by referring to it as “an anomaly.” (As in, “Hey, the tsunami was just an anomaly.”)
In the past, the mining industry wasn’t so shy about making noise. For years, it complained loudly and often about government interference. It’s what Jessica Clogg, the executive director and senior counsel of West Coast Environmental Law, called “the steady drumbeat for deregulation.”
Both federal and provincial governments got the message. New regimes of deregulation followed. So, eventually, did “an anomaly.”
Here’s a prediction: The mining industry can forget about more deregulation. But in retrospect, and as a reminder when the next anomaly arrives — perhaps in the form of an oil tanker — some of the comments about deregulation and the bothersome intrusions of government deserve to be repeated here.
In their own words:
• “We know red tape is a barrier to the private sector. Government doesn’t create wealth, but governments can hinder or enable it. Red tape clearly hinders the creation of wealth and jobs. The focus is to make it as effective and efficient as we possibly can.” — Premier Christy Clark, in her keynote speech to the Mineral Exploration Roundup conference in Vancouver, Jan. 27, 2014, quoted in 24 Hours Vancouver.
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