If passed, the legislation will create a new chief permitting officer position, distinct from the chief inspector of mines.
The chief permitting officer will ensure the mine permitting process is efficient and effective. The chief inspector will retain responsibility for health, safety and enforcement.
Prior to the amendments the chief inspector of mines was responsible for both permitting decisions and for health and safety and enforcement under the Mines Act.
The proposed legislation will further strengthen government's ability to hold mines accountable. These changes include strengthening investigation authorities, clarifying offence provisions and increasing the limitation period from three-to-five years in both the Mines Act and the Environmental Management Act.
Further, the proposed changes will also formalise the creation of the Mine Audits and Effectiveness Unit, led by a chief auditor. This unit will conduct audits to ensure mining regulation in BC is effective and aligned with global best practices.
At the direction of a newly created statutory chief auditor, audits will evaluate the effectiveness of the regulatory system for mining in British Columbia. Each audit will generally include an assessment of industry performance and trends, ministry actions and current regulatory requirements.
Auditors will have the authority to enter mines, gather information and issue orders where imminent threats to persons, property or the environment are identified.
The proposed changes drew heavily on the lessons learned from Imperial Metals' Mount Polley disaster, recommendations from the office of the Auditor General and the Mining Jobs Task Force, and consultation with stakeholders.
British Columbia's mining industry contributed nearly C$9 billion to the provincial GDP in 2019.