The B.C. Liberal government announced a strategy Wednesday to create new mines in B.C. as a way to boost jobs and tax revenue.
"Long-term growth in our mining industry will translate into strong economic growth for our communities, First Nations and the province, and thousands of well-paying jobs that will benefit families in British Columbia," Premier Christy Clark said in a statement.
The province is targeting creation of eight new mines by 2015. It did not detail those locations, including whether the proposed Ajax mine in Kamloops is among them.
To achieve that goal it will work with the federal government to create a single environmental review in a bid to get rid of duplication. The federal Conservative government announced that measure in its last budget.
It will also work to reduce a backlog of tenure and work applications, including exempting some exploration work considered low risk.
The announcement would not appear to affect the proposed Ajax mine south of Kamloops, since it is already in the midst of a comprehensive federal-provincial environmental assessment. The federal government said earlier its changes won't affect the Ajax process.
"We've been in this process for 10 years," said KGHM-Ajax community relations manager Norm Thompson. "To shortcut anything now doesn't make sense to us."
Thompson said any regulatory changes will come too late for Ajax, which is targeting having an application detailing all environmental and other studies done this year.
"By the time they get that (single review) we'll have our application in and before the ministers."
Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Kevin Krueger, a former mines minister, said industry benefits are enormous and the province wants to encourage more mines operated in an environmentally sensitive way.
"Our government is certainly mining-friendly. Mines are a huge generator of employment and the average salary is $120,000 per employee."
Krueger cautioned, however, new mines, including Ajax, will be held to high standards.
But NDP mining critic Doug Donaldson called the B.C. Liberal government a supporter of federal legislation that will gut environmental protections.
Provincial ministries also suffer from a lack of resources protect the environment and to assist mining activity.
"People need trust put back in the environmental process in B.C.," Donaldson said.
B.C.'s mining industry applauded the announcement.
"As B.C. celebrates a record $463 million spent on mineral exploration in 2011, it is important to have a strategy that acknowledges the province's great mineral resources and the potential benefits of responsible mineral development to all British Columbians," said Gavin Dirom, head of the Association of Mineral Exploration British Columbia.