A leading Canadian mining company had recently closed two uranium mines and begun the lengthy and complex regulatory process to obtain approval of their clean-up plans for the mine, surface facilities and waste management areas. The accounting issues in the case focus on the uncertainty associated with the approval of a specific waste management method, upon which the company had based its provisions for clean-up costs, and the potential cost associated with alternative waste management methods that had been investigated by an independent consultant. If forced to adopt one of the alternative methods, a potential cost and liability of $300 million could result. In the audit committee meeting a concern is raised about the potential existence of a contingent liability. The decision faced by the audit committee is whether to investigate the situation, and if so, its role and how to proceed.
The sequels to this case describe the audit committee's investigation and recommendations.