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Ex-CEO of Banks Island Gold Mine acquitted of obstruction charge

Prince Rupert judge said he cannot be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt
Mine sediments flow toward a lake from the Yellow Giant Gold Mine on Banks Island. This photo was taken in June 2015 by former mine safety manager Brent Edmunds. (Brent Edmunds photo)

Former CEO of the now-bankrupt Banks Island Gold Mine, Benjamin Mossman, has been acquitted of one of his charges.

On March 6, Judge Herman Seidemann delivered his judgment in the Prince Rupert courthouse.

“I cannot be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that Flynn [the mines inspector] was obstructed,” said Seidemann in the courtroom. “Mr. Mossman’s reply [to the mines inspector] is responsive and true… The fact is, he was not asked about prior occurrences.”

Crown counsel was recommending that Mossman had committed an offence, under section 37.1 of the B.C. Mines Act, that the former CEO had obstructed, impeded or interfered with an inspector carrying out his duties.

The only witness to testify in this case was Doug Flynn, senior inspector of Mines Health and Safety. Flynn had received emails on July 2, 2015 with photos of discharge from mining activity on Banks Island within the Gitxaała Nation.

Earlier that year, from June 24-25, heavy rains had caused mine waste from an exploratory site to overflow and discharge into the surrounding environment. Aquatic biologist for the mine, Allegra Cairns, had estimated the volume of unauthorized tailings, or mine waste, was 197 cubic metres of water and 116 kg of sediment.

READ MORE: Witnesses testify in court on Banks Island Mine disaster

At the time Mossman wasn’t on site, stated Seidemann as he read his judgment. However, Mossman was made aware of the pollution from the mine spilling beyond the company’s permitted area. He had asked Cairns to make a report on the incident.

Flynn sent an email to Mossman on July 2: “Ben, it has come to my attention that Banks Island Gold may be discharging mine effluence in an area that may contain fish…” Yet, the mines inspector didn’t include the photos he received of the discharge in the email.

Mossman replied to Flynn later that day saying that there was no discharge of mine effluence other than the discharge at the permitted site.

Crown counsel argued that Mossman didn’t notify Flynn of the June 24-25 discharge, and was therefore obstructing the mines inspector from doing his job.

Seidemann said in his judgment that Flynn’s email to Mossman stated that Banks Island Gold “may be discharging” and “did not suggest something that has happened in the past and stopped.”

“He was never asked if there had been other discharges.”

Mossman was acquitted in this charge under the Mines Act. On Dec. 6, 2018, the mining company’s CEO was given a $15,000 penalty after he was found guilty of one Fisheries Act violation and one Environmental Management Act violation.

READ MORE: Court assesses $15,000 penalty in Banks Island Mine case

READ MORE: Bankrupt mining company now faces 35 charges for Banks Island mess

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Shannon Lough | Editor
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