SOURCE: Professional Employees Association

January 30, 2015 16:36 ET

The PEA Supports Mount Polley Panel's Call for Robust Regulatory Framework

VICTORIA, BC--(Marketwired - January 30, 2015) - The Mount Polley Independent Expert Engineering Investigation and Review Panel highlighted a need for a more robust regulatory framework in their final report on the cause of the tailings pond breach. The report is the results of an inquiry, which the Professional Employees Association (PEA) participated in through a written submission.

"We agree with the panel that it can't be business as usual moving forward," said Scott McCannell, Executive Director. The panel recommended a more robust regulatory framework, specifically in the design phase and annual reporting. "We think the government needs to adopt the panel's recommendations to put in place appropriate oversight and move towards practices that mitigate risks to the public," said McCannell.

Some of the PEA's recommendations to the Mount Polley Inquiry were not addressed. The first called for a thorough independent review of the government's policy relying on professionals hired by resource companies to regulate and oversee resource development. "While the review panel is calling for review boards, we had hoped they would have gone further in recommending a review of professional reliance. We believe the current approach jeopardizes public safety and resource stewardship," said McCannell. 

"Mount Polley was a warning sign for all of BC's natural resource development," said McCannell. "From forestry to energy, BC needs more professional staff to steward and support responsible resource development." There was a 15 percent cut to the number licensed science officers in the provincial government over the past five years and a 21 percent cut to professionals in Energy and Mines over the last decade.

The report also pointed out concerns with recruitment and retention in the Ministry of Energy and Mines. "We are pleased that the panel highlighted recruitment and retention challenges the government faces with their professional staff," said Executive Director Scott McCannell. The report points out that "to attract qualified personnel, Ministry of Energy and Mines has to compete with industry salaries, which is a challenge, especially during a booming mining cycle." The report also notes that the Government failed to do any geotechnical inspections during 2009 to 2011 when a senior geo-technical position remained vacant.  

In a recent BC government survey, BC government mining inspectors and engineers rank at the bottom of the scale in terms of pay when compared to other provinces. "We need to pay our mining inspectors, geotechnical, and engineering staff appropriate wages so we can avoid the recruitment challenges that the inquiry highlighted. Vacant positions lead to unacceptable levels of risk," said McCannell.  

Background:

In March 2014 the PEA released a report, Endangered Experts, highlighting the ongoing reductions of licensed science officers working for the BC public service. The report warned of the negative impacts this could have on public safety and resource management. You can find the full report at http://endangeredexperts.ca/report/PEA_Report.pdf

The PEA's submission to the Mount Polley Inquiry had five recommendations relating to the staffing, ongoing inspections and professional reliance regime that contributed to the Mount Polley tailings pond breach. You can read the full submission at http://www.pea.org/node/1546

Contact Information

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