Mineral exploration and development has safely provided opportunity to generations of northwest residents and it will continue to do so.
Our world-renowned deposits of gold, silver, copper, and other critical metals such as zinc and molybdenum, not only provide a source of much needed commodities the world needs but also local family-sustaining jobs and tax revenues to government – revenue which builds schools and hospitals and roads throughout every community in British Columbia.
As British Columbians, we all care deeply about our province and its environment. Studies show resource extraction is viewed as a positive and necessary undertaking, but B.C. residents from all areas demand sustainable practices and strong regulatory oversight.
Responsible mineral exploration and development requires a permitting and environmental assessment system that is detailed and flexible enough to protect our shared environment, yet straightforward and reliable enough to attract investment and provide certainty for the industry to invest hundreds of millions of dollars annually into our economy and people.
British Columbia has a robust environmental assessment process. Project proponents commit to years of effort and multiple studies in order to complete an environmental application.
The environment is not the only thing protected, accommodation and negotiation with First and Treaty Nations as well as local communities are mandatory components of every application.
Further, at each stage, input from the public is requested and taken into account. The completed environmental assessment is a very comprehensive document – for major projects it can run to tens of thousands of pages long.
Because of this robust system and our passionate citizens, B.C. is sometimes viewed as a difficult jurisdiction to explore and develop mineral resources.
Results, however, speak otherwise. In 2014, northern B.C. saw major projects, like Seabridge Gold’s KSM project near Stewart and Alloycorp’s Kitsault molybdenum project, successfully complete the environmental assessment process and 2015 will see several more mine projects move forward, such as Kemess Underground, Blackwater and Brucejack.
Government, in partnership with industry advocacy organizations like the Association for Mineral Exploration BC AME BC (AME BC), is also constantly looking for improvements.
In 2012, duplicate environmental assessment processes between federal and provincial governments were removed, creating a significant time and cost savings for both government and industry without sacrificing rigour.
Also, between 2011 and 2014, the B.C. government halved exploration and mining Notice of Work permitting processing times, meaning companies can plan and undertake work more efficiently. In 2015, AME BC will release a top policy and recommendations document to help governments continue to provide world-class environmental protection as well as increased certainty for industry.
Though commodity prices are currently not at their peaks, British Columbia is in an enviable position worldwide. We have the proven mineral development potential, the infrastructure, the skilled work force, the stable government, and the comprehensive permitting and environmental assessment processes to continue attracting investors, explorers, and developers.
Our locally grown exploration and development companies are innovative, determined, and experienced, constantly finding ways to work more efficiently and creatively. In 2015, and beyond, the mineral exploration and development industry, which has provided the world much needed commodities and sustained so many of northwest B.C.’s towns and communities for generations, will continue to do so with pride.
Gavin C. Dirom is President & CEO of the Association for Mineral Exploration BC which will host its Mineral Exploration Roundup 2015 conference in Vancouver Jan. 26-29, 2015.