The Mount Polley Mine is just one example of an operation British Columbians are being kept in the dark about. (Photograph by Imperial Metals Corp.)

The Mount Polley Mine is just one example of an operation British Columbians are being kept in the dark about. (Photograph by Imperial Metals Corp.)

When there was a deadly explosion at West Virginia’s Sago Mine in 2006, the United States media was able to quickly inform the public about the operation’s poor safety record — something that would be impossible in British Columbia without government cooperation.

Yesterday, I reported how British Columbians have very little information about the safety and regulation of mining compared to Americans, making it difficult for journalists and activists to watchdog that industry.

The reporting on the Sago Mine disaster, which killed 12 workers, is a dramatic example of that difference. On day two of the story, the Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward Jr. was able to use the United States government’s Mine Data Retrieval System to inform readers the mine had “a recent history of roof falls and serious safety violations.”


In 2004, the Sago Mine reported an injury rate that was three times that of similar-size underground mines across the country.

And last year, the Anker West Virginia Mining Co. operation was fined more than $24,000 for about 200 alleged violations, according to U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration data.

During the last six months of 2005, the Sago Mine reported a dozen accidental roof falls, according to MSHA records.

Only one of those roof falls caused an injury, the MSHA records show.

Three of the roof falls occurred after International Coal Group finalized its purchase of the Anker operation in mid-November.

During their last three complete examinations of the Sago Mine, MSHA inspectors cited the company for more than 180 violations.

After the most recent such inspection — from early October to late December — MSHA issued 46 citations and three orders for a variety of safety violations. Inspectors listed 18 of those as “serious and substantial.” These “S&S’ violations are those that MSHA believes are likely to cause an accident that would seriously injure a miner.

It’s intolerable that this kind of information about mining isn’t publicly posted in British Columbia.

Instead, journalists, activists and citizens have to go cap in hand to the government, begging for it to be released.

The only alternative is to request that information through the province’s lengthy and often frustrating freedom of information process.

But what’s even more frustrating is how little seems to have been done to change this state-imposed ignorance.


  1. adanac

    Now with a leak in the mine dam near Kamloops BC. However that’s what happens when, safety standards are deregulated. Environment standards deregulated. Oil, gas and mine barons permitted to operate with acute shortages of staff. Permitting foreigners to take jobs when, they aren’t ticketed nor certified.

    Foreigners are damned dangerous to work with. However Harper’s, oil, gas and mine barons are, bottomless pits of greed. So what if people lose their lives? What do they care if they pollute? Their greed comes first. So, Harper makes it easy for the resource barons to stuff their pockets. What do they give a damn about fish or wildlife? If there was a tanker spill? Harper would sail more tankers, right through the oil spill.


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