British Columbia has introduced amendments to the Mines Act in an effort to strengthen the government’s regulatory oversight of the mining industry.

Introduced by minister of energy and mines Bill Bennett, the changes will also give the ministry additional compliance and enforcement tools.

The regulations are part of the government’s ongoing actions to implement recommendations on the Mount Polley tailings storage facility (TSF) failure in August 2014, which led to mine waste being released into waterways.

They will also enable government to include administrative monetary penalties as an additional compliance and enforcement tool under the Mines Act.

The amendment will see an increase in existing penalties that are available for court prosecutions under the act. They will be raised from $100,000 and up to one year imprisonment to $1m and up to three-year sentences.

In addition, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of British Columbia (APEGBC) is developing new guidelines to be released by mid-2016, and aimed at improving professional engineering practices for dam site characterisation assessments.

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"The amendment will see an increase in existing penalties that are available for court prosecutions under the act."

In 2015, the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) initiated a taskforce review of its tailings management requirements and guidance documents in response to the independent panel’s recommendation to improve corporate governance.

During December 2015, MAC released the final report from this taskforce and is currently working to implement its recommendations.

The province also proposes the implementation of a new requirement that all operating mines in BC with TSFs establish independent tailings dam review boards.

Bennett said: "The legislative changes I introduced today provide my ministry with more tools for compliance and enforcement, strengthening British Columbia’s regulatory framework so we can build an even safer, more sustainable mining industry in this province.

"It is my goal that BC’s regulatory regime for health and safety on mine sites is the best in the world and we will get there by implementing all of the recommendations of the independent expert panel and the chief inspector of mines."

Image: The amendments will strengthen government’s regulatory oversight of the mining industry. Photo: courtesy of British Columbia Government.