WILLIAMS LAKE, B.C. â€” An advocacy group will be back in provincial court in Williams Lake, B.C., today pursuing private prosecution against the province and a mining company over the collapse of the Mount Polley tailings dam.
MiningWatch Canada launched the case last fall, saying the province and the Mount Polley Mining Corp. violated the Fisheries Act when a tailings pond collapsed at the copper and gold mine in August 2014.
The group alleges serious harm was done to fish and the environment when the dam’s failure sent 25 million cubic metres of wastewater gushing into streams and waterways in B.C.’s Interior.
The allegations have not been proven in court and in January, Crown lawyer Alexander Clarkson argued there is no prospect of conviction in the case.
Clarkson said the private prosecution is not in the public interest because the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada are already investigating, and their findings could be considered for the charge approval process.
MiningWatch Canada spokesman Ugo Lapointe says the group expects the Crown will ask for a stay of proceedings today, and if so, they will pressure the Crown and federal government to lay their own charges in the case.
Lapointe said in an interview Sunday that he is concerned no government has taken legal action nearly three years after the tailings pond collapse.
Inaction sends a dangerous message to other mining companies, he said. “It basically says that you can do whatever you want in Canada.”
Last week, the MiningWatch Canada sent an open letter to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna and Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc, saying they have a petition signed by nearly 25,000 Canadians who want to see someone held accountable in the Mount Polley case.
Not pressing charges “further undermines public confidence in the Canadian mining sector, here and abroad, and erodes people’s trust in the ability of our regulatory system to effectively protect our environment,” the letter said.
The Canadian Press