The former CEO of a defunct B.C. mining company has been found guilty of 13 environmental violations in relation to waste discharges from a northwest B.C. mine in late 2014.
On July 7, Judge David Patterson’s decision found that Benjamin Mossman was “actively or passively involved” in the Yellow Giant mine exceeding permitted amounts of zinc and other substances in the woods and wetlands surrounding it on multiple occasions. The Crown had initially charged Mossman with 23 violations.
Mossman was the former CEO of Banks Island Gold Ltd., which oversaw the Yellow Giant mine on Banks Island, 120 kilometres south of Prince Rupert, B.C., in the Hecate Strait, about 718 kilometres west of Prince George.
“The failure to have a foolproof system in place led to the exceedances,” reads the written decision.
“To quote an old adage: ‘The buck stops at the top.'”
The Yellow Giant mine closed in July 2015, shortly after operations began in January that year.
Mossman is now CEO of California-based Rise Gold Corp.
Ministry had ordered mine closed
The Gitxaała First Nation had expressed concerns about the Yellow Giant mine’s operations in 2015 before B.C.’s environment ministry performed an inspection on July 9 that year.
The next day, a pollution abatement order was issued, saying the mining company had released tailings and effluent into a creek, a lake, a pond, as well as forest and wetland on Banks Island.
On July 15, 2015, the Ministry of Energy and Mines ordered operations of the Yellow Giant mine to cease and desist until they were in compliance, and in January 2016, Banks Island Gold filed for bankruptcy.
In 2018, Mossman was convicted of two environmental violations, while Dirk Merkert, the mine’s chief geologist and assistant mine manager, was acquitted on all counts.
Both men were on trial again in the B.C. Provincial Court in 2022, after an appeals judge ordered a re-trial due to issues with evidence.
However the re-trial also featured issues with evidence, relating to a witness whom the judge found unreliable. Merkert was later acquitted of all counts by the court.
Applying to re-initiate a gold mine in California
Mossman was found guilty of being responsible for the effluent discharges that contravened safety standards and occurred on multiple days from August to December 2014, according to the July 7 decision.
His violations, under the Fisheries Act and B.C. Environmental Management Act, could attract fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars or imprisonment. Court records show a court date in the case has been fixed for September.
In a statement to CBC News, Mossman’s lawyer, Chilwin Cheng said they applaud the court’s acquittal of Merkert of all charges, and of Mossman of “all significant charges” related to accidental discharges at Banks Island.
Cheng added that Mossman is considering appealing the B.C. court decision.
CBC News has also reached out to the Gitxaala First Nation and B.C. Prosecution Service for this story.
In August 2016, according to Mossman’s LinkedIn, he became the CEO of Rise Gold Corp in Grass Valley, Calif.
That company has been applying to re-initiate a long-closed gold mine in Nevada County, Calif., with a decision expected from county supervisors in October.