Karina Briño is President and CEO of the Mining Association of British Columbia.
In resource-rich British Columbia, it is not surprising that much of the conversation around economic growth and job creation has surrounded a broader discussion about sustainable resource development. Often the case is compelling, weighing the economic benefits alongside an industry wide commitment to environmental safeguards and stewardship.
As British Columbians we are very fortunate to live in a place that has rigorous and stringent environmental and consultation processes. These processes are important and play a critical role in creating a forum for public input and community consultation that help ensure the development of our natural resources is done in a sustainable, respectful manner.
This is in part achieved by the panel environmental review process, which includes a community hearing component. The panel hearing process is set up to be a quasi-judicial forum that is arm’s length from government. It is an opportunity for proponents, stakeholders and community members alike to come to the table on the important issue of sustainable development.
In an effort to maintain neutrality and accessibility, however, the panel process sometimes cedes control of the scope, content and nature of submissions, which can lead to an imbalance in the process itself.
As a result it is often easy for the process to become divisive in nature, where participants are sometimes compelled to take strong public positions, often leading to divisions within communities. This can constrain the ability to maintain a collaborative environment, where communities and proponents can work together to achieve mutually acceptable outcomes, and can instead create an adversarial environment that ultimately fosters distrust in the outcome. However, when the process is adhered to as framed within legislation, it can deliver balanced and fact based assessments.
Mineral deposits that can sustain a mine are exceptionally rare. To date, according to the Annual Report of the Chief Inspector of Mines, within British Columbia’s 95,000,000 hectares, less than 50,000 hectares have been disturbed by mining operations. In relative terms, that is approximately 0.0005% of the land base, and nearly half of that has already been reclaimed. These numbers are important because they are indicative of the rare nature of finding a deposit that could potentially be developed into an active mine. As such, a mine site is not geologically flexible by nature; it is where you find it.
In instances where there are values associated with the landscape, plans can be put into place to mitigate impact and design accommodations can be made to protect those interests while also allowing for sustainable development. The success of the process should be defined by its ability to strike this balance; one that protects the environment and social values of an area and community, while also incorporating technical expertise and science based facts.
British Columbia’s mines are world leaders in sustainable development, environmental stewardship and reclamation. Our regulations are stringent and the remediation requirements are world class. Like all British Columbians, those involved in the mining industry want to preserve this beautiful province for generations to follow.
The mining industry is not interested in a relaxation of the rules governing their activities, but rather clearly defined timelines and processes that allow for predictability, transparency, consultation and collaboration.
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