Top 40 Mining Reforms for BC

The British Columbian mining regime needs more than tinkering around the edges. Substantive and comprehensive changes are needed to address existing conflicts and reduce the threat of future conflicts over access to land, to minimize the impacts of mining on BC’s lands, waters and communities, and to maximise the potential benefits. This list of recommendations was compiled using reports by several BC First Nation and environmental organizations. It is meant to stimulate discussion about the need for reform and the concrete elements that should be included in the discussion.

  • Re-engage in a good faith process to recognize Aboriginal title and rights and implement commitments under the New Relationship.
     
  • Mineral Tenure Reform
    • Replace the current free entry system with one that respects Indigenous rights as per the recent Ross River Dena decision and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 
    • Enable municipalities, First Nations and citizens to petition for the withdrawal of areas from exploration or mining to protect the public interest, and cultural and ecological values.
    • Require the consent of private landowners before exploration activities occur on their properties.
    • Provide resources for legal and technical support to communities and property owners affected by exploration and mining.
    • Remove the exemption for mining within municipal zoning
  • Land Use Planning and Regional Monitoring
    • Re-commit to land use planning in partnership with First Nations.
    • In addition to existing protected areas identify no-go zones to ensure protection of critical ecosystems, salmon watersheds, Biosphere Reserves and ecological linkages.
    • Identify and address gaps in regional environmental monitoring to ensure viability of ecosystems.
    • Integrate baseline studies at mine projects with regional monitoring efforts.
  • Environmental Assessment (EA)
    • Include First Nations as decision makers in EA processes with the potential for a significant impact on Indigenous rights.
    • Early in the mining sequence (before advanced exploration or extensive detailed drilling and prior to major investments in feasibility studies and project planning) conduct a preliminary review to identify potential issues and determine environmental and social feasibility.
    • Include criteria for assessing the need for and sustainability of proposed projects.
    • Implement regional strategic environmental assessments in situations where multiple projects are proposed for a region.
    • Require assessment of the cumulative effects of major projects.
    • Ensure EA certificates include measurable performance standards.
    • Provide assistance to communities to facilitate participation and extend consultation periods to a realistic timeframe.
    • Apply EA act to mine expansions requiring new permits.
  • Mine Closure and Rehabilitation
    • Refuse operating permits for mines predicted to require perpetual water treatment.
    • Ensure effective financial assurances for closure cover the full costs of rehabilitation of all mine components, and include long-term monitoring and maintenance.
    • Ensure closure bonds are secure and readily available, and do not rely on asset base or credit rating of a company. 
    • Create a system for public disclosure and independent review of closure bonds.
    • Integrate post-mine closure land use with local land use objectives.
  • Improved Environmental Oversight, Enforcement and Disclosure
    • Increase resources for field inspections and enhance the ability of the Ministry of Environment to conduct inspections.
    • Establish a minimum frequency of mine inspections with an increasing number of inspections conducted at higher risk sites.
    • Assist First Nations to develop their capacity to engage in monitoring and enforcement.
    • Amend the Mines Act to establish a right of appeal to the Environmental Appeal Board for decisions related to environmental matters.
    • Develop straightforward public reporting system for environmental performance of operating mines.
    • Require payment of permit fees adequate to cover costs of issuing permits and inspections.
    • Establish a legal requirement and framework for independent monitoring committees at operating mines.
  • Mining Taxes and Royalties
    • Review current taxation and royalty system to ensure maximum potential value is being retained for BC.
    • Legislate revenue sharing standards with First Nations
    • Develop a system for transparent disclosure of payments of corporate and mineral taxes that meets the standards of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
    • Establish a public trust (sovereign wealth) fund with proceeds from the mining tax.
  • Jobs and Local Benefits
    • Ensure that relevant training opportunities exist for all levels of mine employment with an emphasis on Indigenous participation.
    • End the use of the “Temporary Foreign Worker Program” at operating mines. If foreign workers are to be used they should be paid equal wages and have all the protections of Canadian workers.
    • Allow municipalities to tax operating mines for use of municipal infrastructure and services.
    • Use mining income to diversify local economies.
       
  • Abandoned Mines
    • Establish a levy on operating mines to increase financial resources for abandoned mine rehabilitation.
    • Aggressively pursue all responsible parties to recoup clean up costs.

Sources

BC First Nations Energy and Mining Council. 2008. Mining Action Plan

Ecojustice. 2010: Too Much at Stake: The Need for Mineral Tenure Reform In B.C.

University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre. 2012. Maintaining SuperNatural BC for Our Children, Selected Law Reform Proposals. Calvin Sandborn, ed.

University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre. 2011. The Raven Mine, A Regulatory and Fiscal Blackhole

Harvard Law School, International Human Rights Clinic. 2010. Bearing the Burden

West Coast Environmental Law. 2001. Undermining the Law, Addressing the Crisis in Compliance with Environmental Mining Laws in BC