New report sets the bar for responsible mining in British Columbia

December 10, 2018

A new report by SkeenaWild Conservation Trust lays out a set of principles, practices and technologies the group says separate responsible mining operations from those with unacceptable environmental and social impacts.

The report, written by researchers Adrienne Berchtold and Michael Price, comes at a time when mining development is rapidly expanding in Northwest B.C., raising concerns for the health of wild salmon and associated human communities.

“Too frequently, standard ways of designing and managing mine projects result in habitat loss, pollution, catastrophic failure, or abandonment of projects with a legacy of negative environmental impacts,” said Price. “We wanted to make a productive contribution to the conversation by highlighting what we see as the suite of best practices in today’s mining industry.”

The report recommends underground mining over open pit mining, concentrating on high-grade ore bodies and leaving low-grade ore bodies in the ground, avoiding interactions with ground and surface water and avoiding the construction of large tailings impoundments with perpetual water treatment requirements. It also recommends mine operators follow four essential principles:

  1. Build positive relationships with affected communities and other stakeholders by obtaining broad community support and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) for proposed projects, and by performing meaningful stakeholder engagement. 
  2. Minimize environmental harm, especially to salmonids, by adhering to the Precautionary Principle, following a mitigation hierarchy that prioritizes harm avoidance first, and using leading best practices to assess and manage environmental impacts.
  3. Show transparency by publicly reporting, facilitating independent monitoring programs, and undergoing a wide range of independent expert reviews.
  4. Leave positive legacies by offering sustainable community benefits, and providing full financial assurance for the project, which will require sound reclamation and post-closure planning and implementation.

The report concludes with a case study that applies the guidelines for responsible mining to the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell (KSM) mine project in Northwest BC. It also includes a checklist that stakeholders and concerned watershed citizens can use to assess other mine projects and operators.

Download the full report from the SkeenaWild website.

Media inquiries, please contact:
Michael H.H. Price, M.Sc.: 604 842 4409
Greg Knox, Executive Director, SkeenaWild Conservation Trust: 250 615 1990