It’s time for a Better Dialogue about Mineral Exploration and Development – by Gavin Dirom (Vancouver Province – August 31, 2015)

Gavin Dirom is president and chief executive officer of the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia.

Over the past few months, some observers in Alaska have expressed fears about mineral exploration and mining development in northwestern British Columbia. The concerns primarily relate to water quality in rivers originating in British Columbia and draining into southeastern Alaska. These rivers support important salmon runs and communities in both jurisdictions. As good neighbours and allies, Canadian mineral explorers and developers understand and respect these concerns. We also care about our shared water and salmon.

Northwestern British Columbia is a mountainous area with high mineral development potential. This rugged area, with its world-class deposits can help provide us with the critical metals and minerals that we all use in our everyday lives. By discovering and developing mineral resources, our industry makes a major contribution to modern society. Without it, we would have no bicycles, no boats, no electric cars, no iPhones, no lights and no hospitals. These are just a few of the things that require metals and minerals that we all take for granted.

Finding a balance between environmental, social and economic values is a challenge we all face. But that is nothing new. Responsible mineral explorers acknowledge that there will always be some impacts when developing a mine, and we agree that these need to be soundly assessed and properly mitigated.

In fact, in British Columbia – far from being given light treatment from governments – proposed mineral exploration and mining projects are subject to stringent B.C. provincial and Canadian federal laws such as the Mineral Tenure Act, Mines Act, Environmental Management Act, Fisheries Act, Water Act, Wildlife Act and Environmental Assessment Act. Just like almost every critical human activity, the industry in British Columbia has continually evolved, changing its practices in practical ways based on sound facts, scientific information and innovative technology.

It’s important to recognize that these changes over the past 40 years have not been limited to environmental practices, but have included collaboration between industry, organized labour and government to successfully develop regulations such as the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in British Columbia. As a result, the exploration and mining sector in B.C. has a world-leading safety record that is three times better than the average for all sectors in B.C. This is a hard-earned result that all British Columbians can take pride in.

The majority of “mines” in B.C.’s northwest are in fact mineral exploration projects that may (or may not) develop into mines. The probability of all the projects being developed into full-scale mines is unlikely, especially all at the same time.

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