By Carol Linnitt.
Premier John Horgan said this week he’s anxiously awaiting a court decision on charges against Mount Polley mining corporation brought in a private prosecution by former Xat’sull chief Bev Sellars for violations of B.C.’s environmental laws — but B.C.’s role in that case is still unclear.
B.C.’s crown prosecution service is responsible for the final decision on whether and how B.C. will proceed with the case regarding the 2014 tailings pond collapse that released 24 million cubic metres of mining waste into Hazeltine Creek and Quesnel Lake, a source of drinking water.
Sellars filed the case on August 4th, 2017 — the last day a case under provincial law could be brought against the company due to a three-year statute of limitations — as a means of holding open the legal door for government, which had only recently come under NDP power. The courts are expected to make a decision on the fate of the private prosecution by the end of January. “By filing a private prosecution on August 4th, I preserved the right to prosecute Mount Polley Mining Corporation for destroying the environment on which we all depend,” Sellars told DeSmog Canada in an e-mailed statement.
“I did so to uphold Canadian law, traditional law of the Xat’sull people, and for the sake of the next seven generations to come. I hope the province will do their part.”
At a press briefing on Tuesday, Horgan told DeSmog Canada the province is awaiting the court’s decision.
“I think all British Columbians were mortified that three years would pass with no consequences to the most horrific mine disaster in B.C. history,” the premier said. “I remain concerned and I am anxious to hear what the courts say,” he said, adding there is still time to press charges under federal laws.
The province still has the capacity to pursue charges under the Fisheries Act, which “have far greater penalties for non-compliance,” he said. “So this isn’t the end of justice or consequences for the failure,” he said.