Today in Question Period, I asked the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources if the company responded to the order that her ministry issued, and if the soil been removed from the site, as ordered.
S. Furstenau: On May 14, the Ministry of Energy and Mines issued an order to South Island Aggregates pertaining to a piece of property the company owns in the Shawnigan watershed, a piece of property known as lot 21, on which the company has deposited somewhere in the neighbourhood of 100,000 tonnes of industrial soil. This lot is directly adjacent to lot 23, where the same operators have deposited 100,000 tonnes of contaminated soil, much to the dismay of Shawnigan residents.
The Mines order reads: “The permit holder shall remediate the mine site by removing all soils imported since the date of issuance of permit G8331. Upon completion, the permit holder will provide the inspector with a written report showing that the volume of material removed from the site corresponds to the volume imported since the date of issuance of the permit. This remediation shall be completed by September 30, 2019.”
My question is for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. It is now October 8. Has the company responded to the order that your ministry issued, and has the soil been removed from the site, as ordered?
Hon. M. Mungall: First, I just want to acknowledge the hard work that this member has done on behalf of her community on this issue. I remember the very first time I actually met her. She was bringing this issue to the Legislature with the then MLA Bill Routley. I just wanted to acknowledge her hard work on this, because we do have a problem on our hands.
In May, as the member mentioned, we did issue a compliance order on South Island Aggregates, because they were out of compliance with their permit. They had until September 30 to get in compliance with that order.
The site has recently been inspected, and what we found was that they were still out of compliance. They had not taken our order seriously. That is unacceptable.
This issue is now before a statutory decision–maker so that we can proceed, moving forward, in terms of how we can bring them into compliance and the punishment, or should I say the penalty, that they will have to pay in reference to being out of compliance longer than they should have been.
Mr. Speaker: The House Leader Third Party on a supplemental.
S. Furstenau: Thank you to the minister for her response.
I harken back to May 2016, when the B.C. Auditor General released an audit of compliance and enforcement in the mining sector. One of the report’s main findings was that both Ministry of Mines and Ministry of Environment’s enforcement responses have significant deficiencies and Ministry of Mines enforcement tools are, in some cases, ineffectual. This is resulting in delayed or unsuccessful enforcement by ministries and inaction in several instances.
Nearly 3½ years after this report was released, we have a company with a long history of non-compliance with both its mines and environment permits, essentially disregarding an order from the ministry. And I hear that the minister is saying that they intend to take action. However, Shawnigan has been hearing that story for a very long time.
My question is to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. If the ministry doesn’t seem to have the capacity to enforce the rules of its orders and to bring about compliance, who is, in this province, looking out for the public interest?
Hon. M. Mungall: I appreciate that the people of Shawnigan Lake lost confidence in government when they saw, time and time again, their issues not being considered and not being addressed. It was part of a larger problem under the previous government.
This government takes its responsibilities as a regulator very seriously — so seriously that we put….
Mr. Speaker: Members.
Members, the minister has the floor. Thank you.
Hon. M. Mungall: I get that the opposition is quite upset by the fact that we put $20 million into this ministry to put more boots on the ground to make sure that inspections are taking place. Those inspections are now taking place. That’s why we have people on the ground knowing exactly what’s going on with lot 21, knowing exactly what’s happening there and taking action to make sure that we’re bringing South Island Aggregates into compliance — something, when they were in government, they never did.