Advance View: Real Polley impact yet to be seen

It’s being called a disaster, a potential disaster, an averted disaster, a narrowly missed disaster, and a tempest in a teapot – it all depends from which direction the commentary about the Mount Polley Mine tailings pond spill is coming.

Whatever label you wish to attach to the Mount Polley incident from an environmental stand-point, it won’t be a positive motivator for B.C.’s economy, particularly not in the province’s important mineral resource sector.

The apparent fumbling of the file by those who are supposed to be watching over the province’s environmental concerns hasn’t increased anyone’s level of confidence, especially not among those who were already skeptical of the dedication of bureaucrats in the Ministry of Environment.

Those who have been worried that the Enbridge or Kinder Morgan oil pipeline proposals might get an easy ride from environmental reviewers will feel their fears have been vindicated by Imperial Metals Corporation’s serious – and possibly overlooked – misstep.

But more serious from a business point of view has been the provincial government’s bold reaction to the billions of gallons of water and tailings spilled from the Mount Polley pond. The province is already rethinking two Imperial Metals projects, slowing the Red Chris Mine and, even more significantly, suspending environmental assessments of an open pit mine proposal near Smithers.

None of this is likely to steady the nerves of potential investors who have been clamouring for more speed – and leniency – from the government’s environmental assessment authorities.

Both federal and provincial governments have been trying to loosen things up for B.C.’s resource economy, for those investors.

They’ve been claiming that they’ve saved taxpayers a lot of money in doing so.

And now we pay the price.

– B.G.

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