The new provincial mines minister was in the Elk Valley last week taking a tour of Teck Resources coal operations in Line Creek to get a feel for her new responsibilities.
Michelle Mungall, MLA for Nelson-Creston, took over her new cabinet role in July after an NDP-Green alliance ousted a minority Liberal government following a non-confidence vote in June.
“Any time I’m out in the field and doing one of these tours, I learn a lot about how the industry actually works,” said Mungall. “…As a Kootenay resident myself, I’m very aware that Teck has thousands of family-supporting jobs in our region alone. But also, how are we actually extracting these resources from the ground and what are the things we are doing to protect our air, land and water and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions?”
Mungall referenced Teck’s recent guilty plea for the company’s role in releasing toxic material into the Elk River in 2014, as the courts imposed a $1.4 million fine.
“I know that Teck recently pleaded guilty to some infractions around their water treatment for the Line Creek operations and so I asked them to show me what they are doing to address that,” Mungall said.
“They did and it was good to see that Teck takes responsibility when something goes wrong and they look to correct it.
“That’s important to government. We want to make sure our air, land, and water — our environment — is protected. We want to make sure that industry is doing its job. That’s our responsibility as the regulator, to ensure that industry is doing its job.”
The incident occurred in October 2014 when an effluent treatment facility failed to keep toxic levels of nitrate, phosphorus, selenium and hydrogen sulfates from entering the Line Creek on three separate occasions that killed over 74 fish.
Mungall has been busy traversing the province while meeting with industry partners to learn as much as she can about her new portfolio.
But while Mungall was at Line Creek to check out the mining operations, she also got the chance to meet with workers on the ground, in addition to company representatives.
“It was a real great opportunity as I walked through seeing people doing their job, whether it was in the mechanics shop; I met a really amazing woman named Brenda Thompson who is a second-generation employee at Teck and Line Creek.
“…She used to drive the big trucks, now she maintains them for her colleague’s safety.”
A new government and cabinet was sworn in on July 18, when John Horgan became premier after the NDP and Green party banded together to force a vote of non-confidence against the governing BC Liberals.
When Horgan was in the process of choosing his cabinet, Mungall said she offered her name forward for the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources.
“I think of this portfolio as a huge opportunity and I wanted to be a part of that,” she said. “I think all of us on this planet are at the beginning of really coming to terms with climate change and what we need to do to change our energy sources so that we are reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.
So the top thing in my mandate letter is to build that roadmap to renewables and how we, not only in BC — most of our energy is coming from hydroelectricity, so that’s it’s carbon free, but how can we help the rest of the world also reduce their carbon emissions?
“So I wanted to be a part of that, I wanted to be involved in finding those solutions to reduce our impact on climate change and that’s exactly why I asked to be in this portfolio.”
Based out of Nelson, Mungall was first elected to the BC Legislature in 2009 after serving a term on city council.