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Administration of pollution control in British Columbia : a focus on the mining industry Moore, Patrick Albert

Abstract

The rapid growth in world population and industrial technology over the past few decades has resulted in increasing competition for the use of the earth's resources. This has caused what have been termed "resource-use conflicts", the resolution of which requires a "decision-making process". In order to understand the manner in which resource-use decision-making operates in British Columbia, some legal, economic, social, administrative, and environmental factors involved were examined. As a working example of such decisionmaking, a detailed case history of the application for a Pollution Control Permit from the provincial Pollution Control Branch by Utah Construction and Mining Corporation is presented. The controversy surrounding the Company's plans to dispose of 9.3 million gallons of mine tailings daily into Rupert Inlet on northern Vancouver Island resulted in the holding of a public hearing by the Pollution Control Branch, the passage of new environmental legislation, and a court case. These events cast considerable light on the manner in which resource-use decision-making, that involves consideration of environmental factors, operates in British Columbia. Many weaknesses in the decision-making process are apparent, particularly the reluctance of the decision-makers to consider critical environmental factors in arriving at a conclusion regarding the use of resources. Two experimental studies were undertaken: firstly, a brief survey of a number of mining operations in southern British Columbia to determine whether or not the administration of pollution control in the province was effectively preventing unacceptable deterioration in the quality of water draining the mined areas; and secondly, a study of the circulation of water in Rupert Inlet, and the effect of the tailings discharge on the turbidity of the water in the inlet, to test the validity of the basic assumptions behind the granting of a pollution control permit to Utah Construction and Mining Corporation. The objective of these two studies was to show that with a limited budget and in a limited time it was possible to determine the adequacy of the existing pollution control decisionmaking process. The survey of the quality of water draining areas of mining activity revealed that existing mechanisms were not effectively preventing unacceptable heavy metal pollution of water, and that conventional tailings disposal is frequently inadequate and unacceptable from an environmental standpoint. The oceanographic survey of Rupert Inlet demonstrated the falacious nature of the basic assumption underlying Utah's pollution permit. Both studies showed conclusively that the pollution control decision-making process was not operating satisfactorily in British Columbia and that with limited time and finances it was possible to generate some of the information necessary to an adequate decision-making process.

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