Marilyn Scales is a field editor for the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. She is one of Canada’s most senior mining commentators.
When BC Finance Minister Michael de Jong brought down the British Columbia budget on Feb. 19, there was a significant amount of good news. A balanced budget is hard to dislike. And some of the initiatives were praised by the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia.
The AME BC is particularly cheered by the government’s efforts to streamline the mineral exploration permitting process. Victoria is promising a 60-day turnaround for notice of work applications. An extra $7 million has been pledged to improve permitting. But there is more to be done.
Said AME BC president and CEO Gavin Dirom, “We encourage the government to further improve the permitting process and realize the benefits of online notice of work applications, improved First Nations consultation and multi-area, multi-year permitting.”
Dirom praised the budget for promising investment in education. Then he asked for “further investment in Aboriginal capacity building as well. The provincial government has shown leadership by … introducing new revenue sharing and reconciliation agreements with First Nations. We anticipate that with continued investment in mineral exploration and the opening of new mines, the stage will be set for renewed investment in Aboriginal capacity building and geoscience in future budgets.”
British Columbia’s mineral explorers will be listened to. Exploration in the province reached a record $680 million in 2012.
“The challenge now,” said Dirom, “is to convert this level of expenditures into discoveries of new minable deposits in BC that will help pay for the increased health care and education costs.”
Nor is the AME BC the only sector of the mining industry to be encouraged by a balanced BC budget.
Mike Ranallo, chair of the Mining Supplier Association of British Columbia, said, “We are pleased to see continued investment in provincial infrastructure in budget 2013, including $30 million for Pacific Gateway infrastructure. We also welcome targeted investments to provide more efficient permitting for mining exploration, including 60-day timelines for processing notice of work applications and the introduction of multi-year, area-based exploration permitting.”
Ranallo noted the increased cost of doing business in the province. “In addition to the increase of the corporate income tax rate by one percentage point, BC businesses are also facing significant new costs this year related to the reintroduction of the PST,” he said. “On April 1, 2013, manufacturers and producers, such as mining operations, will be taxed an additional 7% on the cost of electricity. We are also concerned that there have been no measures to mitigate costs of transitioning to the PST for the construction industry.”
Readers should remember that there will be a provincial election in British Columbia in 2013, but most of the this year’s budget measures will not take effect until January 2014. With a change of government could come a change of what has recently been promised.