B.C. gov't defends $30M mines payout
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, April 26, 2012 7:55AM PDT
The B.C. government agreed to pay $30 million in compensation to a mining firm because legal advice said a pending lawsuit could have cost it $50 million, the provincial mines minister told the legislature.
Newly released documents from an independent expert said the Boss Power Corp., uranium claim was worth about $8.7 million.
The New Democrat opposition said the payout adds up to $21 million worth of incompetence from the provincial government.
The case was settled last October, just before a civil trial was set to begin alleging the province had prevented the company from exploring for uranium in its claim because it had suddenly imposed a ban on uranium mining.
The so-called Blizzard Project, about 50 kilometres southeast of Kelowna, B.C., was staked for uranium back in 1976.
Just days after Boss Power applied for the uranium permit in April 2008, the B.C. government announced a ban on uranium mining in the province.
The government's own court documents acknowledged provincial mining officials were told to ignore Boss Power's work order, despite advice from the Ministry of the Attorney General that said the government had a legal obligation to consider the mine.
The B.C. government released three assessment reports on the claim this week, including its own report which said the compensation should be about $6.7 million and a B.C. Supreme Court independent report by Keith Spence that put the price tag at about $8.7 million.
Boss Power's compensation report said the claim was worth from $59 to $96 million, figures Spence discounted because that assessment wasn't up to present-day standards.
New Democrat mines critic John Horgan told the legislature Wednesday that Boss was "mining for compensation," in its multimillion dollar settlement suggestion.
"If you have a government that has admitted to malfeasance, that has directed public servants to not do their job, is it little wonder that they ask for the high end of the bargain?"
In a loud exchange during question period, Mines Minister Rich Coleman said the government agreed on the settlement after getting legal advice.
"As we came through this process we actually booked (the money) on the advice from both the attorney general and Treasury Board -- that we would book $50 million on the Boss Power thing -- and we settled at $30 million," he said.
Boss Power president Randy Rogers said after the settlement last October that the government was involved in "dirty dealings" in its attempt to shut down its uranium mine proposal.
Rogers said the government refused to process his company's permits and then denied it even received the corporation's applications.
Rogers didn't return a request for an interview Wednesday.
There are 196 known mineral occurrences of uranium and thorium in the province, but there has never been an operating uranium mine in B.C.