B.C. judge OKs private prosecution over Mount Polley mine disaster

B.C. judge OKs private prosecution over Mount Polley mine disaster

Charges filed at 11th hour; NDP asks why Crown missed deadline

A aerial view shows the damage caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C. Tuesday, August, 5, 2014. The pond which stores toxic waste from Imperial Metals' Mount Polley Mine had its dam break on Monday spilling its contents into the Hazeltine Creek causing a wide water-use ban in the area.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/JONATHAN HAYWARD

A aerial view shows the damage caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C. Tuesday, August, 5, 2014. The pond which stores toxic waste from Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley Mine had its dam break on Monday spilling its contents into the Hazeltine Creek causing a wide water-use ban in the area.

In an obscure legal manoeuvre, a former B.C. First Nation chief successfully filed 15 criminal charges against Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley Mining Corp. on Friday over its 2014 tailings pond collapse.

The disaster spilled 24 million cubic metres of toxic tailings into a river and several lakes near Likely, B.C. A report subsequently concluded the dam was build on an unstable base, but the company had been warned ahead of the collapse that its pond was too full and had a crack.

Concerned about the province’s failure to charge the company before the statute of limitations expired last Wednesday, Xat’sull First Nation’s former leader Bev Sellars convinced a justice of the peace to approve a private prosecution, a rarely used procedure since it’s normally the Crown that files charges.

“I could not bear to witness B.C. simply stepping aside and giving up on its own responsibility to protect our shared environment and waters,” Sellars stated in a press release. “We just couldn’t let it go.”

Under her court filing, funded by the legal nonprofit West Coast Environmental Law, the company now faces 15 charges — five for alleged violations of the B.C. Mines Act, and the remainder for breaches of the B.C. Environmental Management Act.

Because the prosecution service is independent from government, the B.C. NDP could not order charges before the deadline, but demanded answers as to why none were filed in the largest mine tailings disaster in Canadian history.

Sellars’ prosecution could buy time for the province to get involved, or even take over the case.

The disaster cost the province more than $40 million to clean. Imperial Metals’ owner Alberta billionaire Murray Edwards and his companies have donated more than $502,000 to the B.C. Liberals since 2005, according to Elections B.C., and Edwards hosted a $1-million fundraiser for the party months before the disaster.

http://www.metronews.ca/news/vancouver/2017/08/08/prosecution.html

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