This is an update of an article first published in February.
No charges will be laid against the Mount Polley Mine Corporation, owned by Imperial Metals, for the collapse of a tailings impoundment on August 4, 2014, that sent an estimated 24 million cubic metres of mining waste into the pristine waters of Quesnel Lake.
The incident, considered one of the worst mining disasters in Canadian history, was simply the result of “poor practices,” according to B.C. chief inspector of mines, Al Hoffman, and not due to “non-compliances.”
There were no charges and no court imposed penalties for a company with $1.5 billion in assets that is owned by a multi-billionaire rated by Forbes as one of Canada’s wealthiest. Not a ten percenter, Murray Edwards is in Canada’s top 0.00004%. However, he’s also an effective bagman who has delivered millions of dollars to Premier Clark.
The same is not true for homeowners responsible for a minor slide of loose fill into an unnamed North Shore creek. A couple was fined $100,000 but faced a $560,000 penalty in addition to $80,000 in municipal charges and legal fees. This scene of destruction is marked here with an X in the lower left.
Immunity from prosecution is not the only benefit to Imperial Metals Corporation. The company’s quarterly report to shareholders announced that its Mount Polley, Red Chris and Huckleberry mines have “signed on to participate in the power payment deferral plan announced recently by BC Hydro.” That lost revenue means the public utility must increase its borrowings to cover the unpaid industrial power charges. As BC Hydro’s only profitable customers, residential ratepayers are subsidizing a billionaire who apparently moved recently outside Canada to save income tax.
This financial advantage was extended to Imperial Metals even though its monthly mining revenues, which averaged $10 million in 2015, had grown 325% to $45 million in the first months of 2016. Compared to the same period a year ago, the company’s cash flow increased by $55 million in the three months ended March 31, 2016.
Again, let us compare how BC Hydro treated a disabled single mother who experienced a sudden and unexplained increase in her electricity billings. BC Hydro threatened disconnection if the entire bill remained unpaid. Because that was impossible, people on social media mounted a GoFundMe campaign to keep the lights burning.
In British Columbia, where income and disability assistance rates went unchanged from 2007 to 2016, the Campbell and Clark Governments have bent over backward to hand out corporate welfare to people who write large cheques to the BC Liberal Party.
Murray Edwards, controlling shareholder of Imperial Metals and numerous other companies, is but one of those.