Time extended for Polley investigation
Mines minister Bill Bennett. (FILE PHOTO)
If Bill Bennett gets his way, Crown counsel will have three years — up from one — to investigate possible charges against Imperial Metals over the Mount Polley tailings breach.
The minister of energy and mines introduced the amendment to the Mines Act Thursday, but the amendment is designed to work retroactively, dating back to Aug. 1 2014 so it can include the Mount Polley incident.
“We were going to update this legislation in any case, but with the Mount Polley situation, we wanted to just ensure that we don’t get to a point in the summer where the Crown prosecutor feels their office doesn’t have enough time to assess what charges should be laid,” said Bennett. “We’re just not going to take a chance on that.”
When asked why the amendment was introduced now instead of back in August, Bennett explained the priorities of his office.
“The first priority was to make sure that the company and government did everything possible to minimize the environmental impact,” he said.
After the issues of environmental impact and human safety were evaluated, the next imperative was making sure that Imperial Metals was doing everything within their power to trap and collect contaminants. Following that came the independent investigation, the investigation from the chief mines inspector, and the investigation from the conservation officer.
“And following all of that, the next priority for me was to make sure that the legislation got updated,” said Bennett.
Currently the Mines Act provides less time for Crown counsel to investigate and to lay charges than the Forest and Range Practices Act and the Environmental Management Act, the amendment would bring the three acts into alignment with regards to the time limit for pursuing charges.