Miners looking for common ground

In the past few years, mining has become particularly important in Northern BC

By Karina Briño

THE MINING Association of BC (MABC) believes the best way to strengthen BC’s economic future is to ensure governments, business, indigenous peoples and local communities find common ground and shared value.

The mining industry generated $8.9 billion in economic activity in 2010 and mines directly employed nearly 8,200 people with average salaries of more than $100,000. That has also led to millions in economic spinoffs and helped revive many communities,  including First Nations.

In the past few years, mining has become particularly important in Northern BC. With 11 projects in the works, including the Red Chris copper and gold mine, Galore Creek gold and copper project and the Rio Tinto Alcan smelter modernization in Kitimat.

With a strong focus on discovery and production of these resources, BC and Canada are maintaining high standards for sustainability, and protecting the environment. We have a politically stable, business-friendly climate for mining and strong commodity prices.

Sustainable and responsible mining is the only acceptable way to successfully operate in Canada. Besides being a good business practice, which helps gain and maintain lasting investment and job creation, the mining industry is also committed to social responsibility.

The members of the MABC have recently adopted the Mining Association of Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining Initiative. This allows the mining sector to demonstrate that it is accountable for its social, environmental and economic performance.

These efforts need to be considered around the federal government’s decision to modernize the environmental review process by reducing provincial-federal overlap and establishing completion timelines.

Some opponents of the proposed changes believe specific timelines with less government duplication will result in weaker reviews. We do not share this view. Both the public and industry want a robust and an efficient process with predictable timelines. An environmental assessment is the first step in the review process. There are many other regulations and conditions that stem from EA decisions. These will not change.

The federal government has announced the Responsible Resource Development Plan which is meant to create a more efficient and effective review system. The plan also calls for a strengthening of the aboriginal consultation process around project development.

What’s driving these changes? Industry, governments, and First Nations have acknowledged there is a need to fix the current cumbersome review process that causes delays and drives up costs for all involved.

The existing process also threatens to undermine Canada’s position in the increasingly competitive global resources sector.

According to Perrin Beatty, CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the current, outdated review process is one of the top 10 barriers to Canada’s global competitiveness and does nothing but “dull our competitive edge.”

The federal government estimates there could be more than 500 major resource projects representing some $500 billion over the next 10 years in the energy and mining sectors, which would be a huge economic boost and create thousands of well-paying jobs.

Mining also has many social benefits. Mining can only be successful when it finds common ground and creates shared value between companies, governments and society. For companies and governments, that means making a profit, while addressing the needs and challenges in communities such as unemployment and environmental concerns.

MABC believes the best way to strengthen B.C.’s economic future is to ensure meaningful engagement takes place throughout the decision-making process, including around a major project review. To find common ground requires involvement from governments, indigenous peoples and local communities to ensure responsible, sustainable business practices that benefit us all.

The more open we are to finding common ground the better chance there is of creating a responsible, sustainable development for the benefit of all citizens.

Karina Briño is the President and CEO of the Mining Association of British Columbia.