A bankrupt mining company charged for allegedly polluting an island in the Hecate Strait has been handed an additional 17 charges for violating environmental laws.
As of March 14, Banks Island Gold Mine Ltd., the company that ran Yellow Gold Mine within Gitxaala Nation, now faces at total of 35 charges under the under the federal Fisheries Act and the provincial Environmental Management Act and Water Act.
The initial 18 charges were laid in August 2016 against the company, its ex-president Benjamin Mossman and geologist Dirk Meckert. Since then, aquatic biologist Allegra Cairns has been included in the charges.
“What happened was a real tragedy and we’re happy to see it being taken through court,” said Samantha Wagner, the environmental assessment coordinator for Gitxaala Environmental Monitoring.
The first list of charges were under the Environmental Management Act for failure to comply with the permit and one charge for failure to report spilling a polluting substance.
The next set of charges deal with the failure to deposit a harmful substance and failure to notify a fisheries officer. The most recent charges laid in March involves making unlawful changes to the exploration zones in a stream near the “discovery” site and construction, maintenance or operating without authority near the “Bob” site.
Two years ago, the Ministry of Environment ordered Banks Island Gold to shut down after unauthorized discharge of effluent and tailings had been leaking into the environment for several months. On July 9, members of the provincial government paid a visit to the site 110 km south of Prince Rupert, and determined the company was in violation of the Environmental Management Act and its waste discharge permit.
B.C. legislation requires the mine owner to pay for the clean-up costs related to environmental spills but on January 2016 the company declared bankruptcy. The government has been dipping into the $420,000 reclamation security deposit to pay for the clean up.
As of May 2016, the Ministry of Energy and Mines stated it had removed all hazardous materials and in August, the ministry visited the site again to determine costs to reclaim and close the mine.
“As far as we’re concerned no clean up has taken place aside from some of the really low hanging fruit,” Wagner said. “As far as actually cleaning up the environment, no. All of that stuff spilled into salmon-bearing streams and went out into the ocean where there’s a lot of ground fish harvesting and aquatic plant harvesting. None of that has been addressed.”
The next court date is set for May 1 at the Prince Rupert provincial courthouse.