Mining firms in B.C. to face tougher penalties for health and safety failures – by Justine Hunter (Globe and Mail – February 25, 2016)

VICTORIA — British Columbia is catching up with other provinces by introducing tougher penalties for mining companies that fail to comply with health and safety rules.

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett introduced amendments to the Mines Act on Thursday that will give regulators new powers to levy financial penalties without having to go to court. As well, the courts will be able to impose more severe punishment including fines of up to $1-million and three-year jail terms.

It’s the latest in a string of measures to improve mining safety in the wake of the 2014 environmental disaster when a tailings pond collapsed at the Mount Polley copper and gold mine in central B.C.

“Governments, over the decades, have relied on companies to utilize best practices,” Mr. Bennett told reporters Thursday. Now, he said, the province will take a more prescriptive and less trusting approach.

“Our challenge now is to determine what … we have to prescribe, in regulation and policy, that will ensure that what the vast majority of mining companies already do, is being done by everybody,” he said.

“There will be some administrative penalties for non-compliance that can ensure that some of the weak practices we saw at that mine site don’t happen again.”

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