Yellow Giant mine on Banks Island

Banks Island miners face 18 pollution charges

Gold mine near Prince Rupert shut down last summer for permit violations, owners charged for failing to report spill

Two men and a mining company in receivership have been charged with 18 pollution infractions related to their shut-down gold mine on an island near Prince Rupert.

Benjamin Mossman and Dirk Meckert are scheduled to appear in Prince Rupert provincial court Sept. 7. Also charged is Banks Island Gold Ltd., which went into receivership after being shut down last year for provincial permit violations.

The Yellow Giant mine was ordered shut down by the Ministry of Environment in July 2015 after a tailings spill was reported on a tip. There is one charge of failing to report a spill of a polluting substance, and the other 17 charges are for failing to comply with permits.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice raised the issue in the legislature this spring, after receiving a letter from the Gitxaala First Nation referring to two separate tailings spills. Rice said the ministry did not inspect the operation for 15 months, until receiving a complaint.

NDP mining critic Norm Macdonald told the legislature a worker at the mine “became fed up, put his job on the line, sent the ministry and me a tip and pictures that documented what was going on there.”

Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett said the mine was shut down when the situation was brought to its attention. The mine’s 90 employees lost their jobs.

The province has a $420,000 security bond from the mining company, to provide ongoing monitoring. In March the mines ministry and Banks Island Gold removed explosives from the mine site and in May ministry technical staff assessed the hazardous materials on site.

The B.C. Conservation Officer Service, which recommended the charges, would not comment on the current condition of the Banks Island site, because it is evidence for the prosecution.