Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMP): What We Learned from BC’s Mining Violations

Mining Administrative Monetary Penalties

Since February 2017, the  British Columbia Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation (EMLI) has been issuing Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMP) to support the enforcement of the Mines Act, associated regulations, and permits issued under the Act.  

Ascendion Law has studied thirty-nine Determinations of Administrative Penalties, representing a complete dataset of all decisions published by the EMLI. As of May 2023, the EMLI has issued twenty-six decisions. Some decisions involved multiple respondents; often, a dominant shareholder or another responsible individual, such as a mine manager, was a respondent with the permit holder, usually a B.C. corporation. 

This dataset can help mining companies subject to administrative action by the Chief Inspector to predict the average fines and penalties they may receive. Our study can also help mining professionals understand the weight given to several factors in mitigating or aggravating penalties – such as due diligence, the compliance history of the companies or individuals involved, and the severity of the adverse effect of the violation.

White Paper Key Findings

The EMLI has issued thirty-nine AMPs, giving us a material body of decisions from which we can infer a statistically significant pattern of findings.

As the EMLI has issued Determinations of Administrative Penalties for several years, we now have a material body of decisions from which we can infer a statistically significant pattern of findings. Download our full report Understanding Administrative Monetary Penalties Issued to Mining Companies Operating in British Columbia (2023).

Some of our key findings include:  

  • Decision-makers stay close to issuing the base penalty for the offence unless there are significant aggravating factors.
  • Monetary penalties are higher for violations under Section 10, including not having a permit or engaging in work outside the scope of an existing permit, than the penalties for violating a current permit.
  • The EMLI imposed the highest penalties for workplace injuries, worker deaths, significant environmental damage, or a severe history of non-compliance.
  • Whether the gravity and amount of a violation are labelled "Major" or "Moderate" significantly affects the potential fine.
  • Penalties for violations classified as having a "High" actual or potential adverse effect were twice that of penalties for "Medium" violations.
  • Unexpectedly, whether the violator was a first-time or repeat offender was not always predictive of the size of the fine imposed.

In the public interest, parties engaged in mining activities obtain the proper permits. Unsurprisingly, penalties were higher for unpermitted activities than violations of existing permits.

Similarly, as expected, we found that serious incidents involving worker injury or death, significant environmental damage, or other aggravating severe factors resulted in higher monetary penalties. Further, when the gravity and amount of a violation are labelled "Major", fines are 3 to 5 times higher.

The unexpected anomaly in the data was that a history of violations or repeated contraventions did not necessarily result in higher monetary penalties; in many cases, first-time offenders received higher penalties. This is an issue that calls for further review.


Mining industry participants can take several vital points away from our study:

  • The AMP regime is real and is here to stay. Since the system became active in February 2017, the EMLI has issued thirty-nine AMPs against small and large participants. This AMP system operates alongside procedures regulating environmental compliance under the Environmental Management Act, employment regulation such as the Labour Code, and quasi-criminal prosecution.  
  • The penalties issued in the AMP regime have a cumulative effect. We expect penalties in the AMP system can increase the liability to exposure in quasi-criminal regulation and other administrative proceedings, such as before the Environmental Appeal Board.
  • The critical protection from AMPs is to have a permit – and to obtain a broad, descriptive permit covering past and expected activities on site. Most AMPs are issued for violations of permits or for engaging in activity outside of the scope of an existing permit.
  • Serious incidents result in higher penalties. While companies want to protect their workers and reduce the risk of injury or death on a mine site for its own sake, it is essential to note that such events result in significantly higher penalties than other safety, environmental, and technical violations.

If you face an investigation by an EMLI staff or have been invited to provide submissions before a penalty is issued, our study suggests, especially if you have a minimal budget of time, money, or both, you can best maximize the value of your response budget by focusing on lowering the gravity of the misconduct and reducing the effects on third parties and the surrounding environment.

Like most administrative remedies, imposing an AMP requires fewer procedural safeguards. The Ministry does not bear a criminal burden of proof. They are not intended to attract criminal sanction, nor do they attract civil sanction. AMP findings undoubtedly may inform courts or litigants involved in these proceedings. They supplement and sometimes amplify quasi-criminal or regulatory enforcement.

Understanding your rights and responsibilities during a regulatory investigation is critical. We always recommend contacting counsel early in the inspection or investigation process.

Click here to download our full report Understanding Administrative Monetary Penalties Issued to Mining Companies Operating in British Columbia (2023).

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Chilwin Cheng


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