By Gordon Hoekstra.
The clock is counting down on the time remaining to lay environmental charges in Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley mine dam failure, which took place nearly three-and-a-half years ago in the B.C. Interior.
One of the largest mining-dam failures in the world in the past 50 years, it shook the industry and caused concern among the public, First Nations and environmental groups that aquatic life would be harmed, particularly salmon that use the Quesnel Lake system to spawn.
The three-year deadline to lay charges under B.C.’s environmental laws passed last summer. Under federal law, there is a five-year window to lay environmental charges, leaving 20 months to do so.
The B.C. Environment Ministry said Friday that a joint investigation of the B.C. conservation officer service and federal officers continues but could not provide information on when the investigation was expected to be complete.
“B.C.’s conservation officer service will continue to work actively alongside federal agencies on this complex and thorough investigation,” environment minister spokesman David Karn said in a written statement.
“In general, the length of an investigation is dependent upon the complexity of the occurrence and the amount of information that needs to be gathered and considered. Be assured that both levels of government are committed to a thorough investigation within the timeframe of the federal statute of limitations,” said Karn.
Penalties can be far more significant under federal legislation, specifically the Fisheries Act, than under provincial legislation, noted Karn. The federal Environment Department did not respond to a request for comment.