Underfunding for the clean-up of mines inched up to $1.273 billion in 2015, upping the level of financial risk to taxpayers above what it was the year before. The estimate is up from $1.263 billion in 2014 and may continue to increase, according to B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett.
B.C. law requires mining companies to post security, for example a bond, to cover the costs of reclamation and any continuing treatment of tailings pond water, which contains mine waste, when a mine closes. In a report last year, B.C. auditor general Carol Bellringer said the shortfall meant taxpayers could be on the hook if a company couldn’t pay for cleaning up a closed mine.
Bellringer recommended mine-by-mine details be reported and that government “safeguard” taxpayers by ensuring the estimate of the reclamation liability is accurate and that security demanded by government is sufficient to cover potential costs.
On Thursday, for the first time, the mine-by-mine details were posted publicly in the province’s chief inspector of mines annual report — a practice that will continue, said Bennett. Last year, the mine details were made public following a request by The Vancouver Sun.
To address the auditor’s other concerns, the B.C. Ministry of Energy and Mines is determining how to tighten requirements on security for mine clean-up, which includes an analysis by Ernst and Young.
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