The Government of British Columbia is proposing to make temporary provisions for water use in mineral exploration and small-scale placer mining operations a permanent part of the Water Sustainability Act regulations, and has released an intentions paper for public comment.
Historically, water use for prospecting did not require an authorization. Legislation and policy at the time considered mineral exploration and small-scale placer mining as prospecting. This changed in 2016 with the narrow definition of prospecting under the Water Sustainability Act, and individuals undertaking these activities became subject to the requirement to obtain an authorization to use water.
In light of existing permitting requirements and restrictions for these activities under the Mines Act, government put in place temporary rules to allow the use of available water for mineral exploration and small-scale placer mining activities without an authorization, subject to additional restrictions under the Water Sustainability Regulation.
The new provisions, if approved, will make permanent the existing temporary restrictions. In addition, they would enable an engineer or water manager to require an individual to apply for an authorization to use water if there is a risk of significant adverse impact to the stream or to other authorized users.
Pending a public consultation period and government review and approval, the proposed provisions would be incorporated into regulation later this year.
The public is invited to comment on the intentions paper until Nov. 26, 2018, by visiting the Water Sustainability Act page: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/watersustainabilityact/