APTN National News
While the province of British Columbia did not press any charges against the executives of the Mount Polley mine, a First Nations woman pressed ahead and did it herself.
Bev Sellers convinced a justice of the peace that executives with the Mount Polley mine company needed to be held accountable for the destruction caused when a tailings pond blew over its banks.
“I knew that there were things that Mount Polley should have been doing that didn’t happen,” said Bev Sellers, former chief of the Xatśūll First Nation.
“If they are allowed to walk away, heaven help us for any other mining company or resource extraction in Canada. It just sets a precedent for allowing Mother Earth to be destroyed.”
It’s been three years since the Mount Polley mining disaster.
In early August, the tailings pond dam at the Mount Polley mine outside Likely, B.C., breached its protective berm, spilling millions of cubic metres of contaminated mining waste into nearby waterways.
Three separate investigations were launched. One is still ongoing.
An independent expert engineering panel and the chief inspector of the mine found that the dam had failed because of an unstable foundation, and poor practices at the company.
Still, no violations of the mining act were found and no fines or charges laid.
Three years also marks the deadline for provincial charges to be laid – and British Columbia’s government announced that charges were not going to be laid.
On deadline day, Sellers convinced a Justice of the Peace to approve
“I have a law degree and I knew that private charges were an option,” she said. “I knew that the province wasn’t going to lay charges so we needed to do something.”
Despite the government not laying charges, Environment and Climate Change Strategy Minister George Heymen issued a statement.
“I have spoken with the Parliamentary Secretary to the federal minister of Environment and Climate Change. We are in agreement that British Columbians deserve a rigorous and independent investigation to determine exactly what
went wrong and to ensure any person or company that broke the law is held responsible.”
Sellers said her charges could allow the province to get involved, even take over the case.”
“All I did was lay them, there is obviously a lot more that needs to happen,” she said. “The Crown Council will look at them and see if there is enough to go ahead.
“It’s just the beginning, all we did was the paperwork to make sure that the door stayed open.”
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