Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett outlined government’s actions today, including new policies and funding, to increase competitiveness, strengthen First Nations involvement, and enhance responsible resource development in British Columbia’s mining sector.
“Today we have more than 30,000 people working in mineral exploration, mining and related sectors, double the number employed in 2001,” Bennett said. “After a particularly long and difficult commodities downturn, the mining industry is on the road to recovery and well-positioned to take advantage of strengthening prices. Our mining industry is environmentally responsible and a great job creator for our rural communities and also creates many jobs in Vancouver’s 700 head offices.”
Over the last four years, government has taken steps to keep the industry competitive, including:
- Ministry of Energy and Mines budget increase of $18 million over three years for mines permitting and oversight, announced in Budget 2017. This is in addition to the $4.85 million budget lift in 2015.
- Eliminating provincial sales tax on electricity over the coming two years.
- Allowing mining companies to temporarily defer a portion of their hydro bills when the sector was experiencing a slowdown due to low commodity prices.
- Extending the B.C. mining flow-through share tax credit to Dec. 31, 2017.
- Adding community engagement as a deductible expense in B.C.’s mining exploration tax credit program.
- Establishing the Major Mines Permitting Office to improve the coordination of major mine permits across government.
- Reducing turnaround time for Notice of Work permits to under 50 days, down from 110 days in 2011— surpassing the goal of 60 days set out in the BC Jobs Plan.
- Providing Geoscience BC with $10 million in funding over two years to further support its work in encouraging mineral, coal, and oil and gas exploration investment in the province – this is in addition to the more than $60 million government has provided to Geoscience BC since 2005.
“We commend government’s commitment to improve industry competitiveness and look forward to working collaboratively to continue these efforts in order to attract investment, protect and create jobs, and build healthy communities across the province,” said Karina Brino, president and CEO, Mining Association of BC. “As the outlook for mining continues to improve, we have the potential to grow our industry and provide family-supporting jobs across B.C., and to continue our long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship and positive partnerships with communities and First Nations.”
Bennett also outlined actions government has implemented that improve safety in the mining industry, strengthen compliance and enforcement and increase openness and transparency.
“Mining is essential to our economy and to all regions of the province, but it can only happen with the confidence of the public,” Bennett said. “To that end, our government has made significant changes to how mining is done in British Columbia, including new policies, additional resources and funding to improve permitting processes and strengthen compliance and enforcement.”
- Completion of health and safety portion of mining code review – updates to the code based on the unanimous recommendations from the Code Review Committee chaired by the chief inspector of mines which includes an equal number of representatives from First Nations, mine labour unions and industry.
- Major changes to the management and oversight of tailings storage facilities.
- Administrative monetary penalties (AMP) regulations brought into force – regulations and related penalties for non-compliance with the Mines Act and Mining Code.
- A new Compliance Board and a new strategic plan for compliance and enforcement of mining in B.C. that outlines government’s three-year vision for mining oversight in the province.
- Completion of a cross-jurisdictional review of reclamation securities and release of Ernst and Young reclamation securities report.
Launching the B.C. Mine Information website that provides greater openness and transparency around mining operations in B.C.
“This has been a new approach to try to include more First Nations perspectives in the review of mining legislation – efforts which need to continue to expand and deepen as the essential work of reconciliation continues directly with First Nations,” said Nalaine Morin, principal, ArrowBlade Consulting Services and member of the Code Review Committee. “This has been a positive step forward that will hopefully lead to deeper collaboration with First Nations on mining in British Columbia."
Government has now addressed all of the recommendations from Independent Expert Panel and most of the chief inspector of mines’ recommendations from their investigations into the Aug. 4, 2014, tailings pond breach at the Mount Polley Mine. Additionally, government has made significant progress on the 17 recommendations from the Office of the Auditor General’s May 2016 report on compliance and enforcement of the mining industry. Work to implement the remaining recommendations will be completed by the end of 2017.
“With these and other measures implemented in the last couple of years, compliance and enforcement for mining is more robust and, with the recently announced budget increase for the Ministry of Energy and Mines, British Columbians can have confidence that these actions are fully funded,” Bennett said. “B.C. now has a path to ensure a safe, modern mining industry that is the envy of the world.”
Additionally, government has taken steps to strengthen First Nations involvement in British Columbia’s mining industry. B.C. is the first province to share royalties payable by new mines and major mine expansions with First Nations – helping to enhance the governance, social, economic and cultural well-being of First Nation communities. Since August 2013, more than $26 million in direct mineral-tax revenues from new mines and major mine expansions has flowed to First Nations as a result of Economic Community Development Agreements.
A complete list of the combined 26 recommendations from the independent expert panel and the chief inspector of mines is available here: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/mineral-exploration-mining/documents/health-and-safety/code-review/mp_recommendationstable_feb2017_update_final.pdf
A list of the 17 recommendations from the Office of the Auditor General is available here: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/mineral-exploration-mining/documents/health-and-safety/code-review/mp_ag_recommendationstable_february2017.pdf
The strategic plan for compliance and enforcement of mining in B.C. is available here: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/mineral-exploration-mining/documents/compliance-and-enforcement/bc_mines_compliance_and_enforcement_strategy_web.pdf
The Ernst and Young report on British Columbia’s mine reclamation financial security policy is available here: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/farming-natural-resources-and-industry/mineral-exploration-mining/documents/reclamation-and-closure/bc_mem_ey_report_on_mine_reclamation_security_final.pdf
Information on mining operations in B.C. can be found on the B.C. Mine Information website: http://mines.nrs.gov.bc.ca/
Three backgrounders follow.