B.C. municipal politicians passed a resolution Thursday calling on the Liberals to give local governments, First Nations and citizens more say over proposed mining activity.
The resolution of the Union of B.C. Municipalities was brought forward by the municipality of Tofino. It comes after a failed effort by Coun. Tina Lange to push Kamloops council for the same resolution to UBCM.
“Praise the lord, that’s fabulous,” Lange said when she heard the UBCM resolution passed.
“I want to see that they do a concerted effort to get out to communities, to all stakeholders, and say how does the Mineral Tenure Act affect you now and how could they make this better?”
Lange said there are mines and claims throughout the province, even within cities, that people aren’t aware of.
“But municipalities have to have more power over their planning. And the same goes for First Nations,” she said.
“I hope the province will take it to heart and make even small changes. But there needs to be a lot more public consultation.”
The resolution called on the provincial government to update the Mineral Tenure Act so that a full range of interests, including social, cultural, ecological and economic, are considered in creating new mines.
"With mineral exploration permits issued at two sites within kilometres of our town, we have learned firsthand how B.C.’s ’free entry’ mining laws are a root cause of unnecessary conflicts around the province," said Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne, who brought forward the resolution.
"It’s time to modernize B.C.’s outdated Mineral Tenure Act in a way that ensures the full range of interests — including social, cultural, ecological and economic — are given fair consideration on B.C.’s land base. That was the thrust of our resolution."
It was passed in a group of resolutions.
But Kamloops Exploration Group vice-president Perry Grunenburg said there are already plenty of hoops for the industry to jump through, particularly with First Nations, which have “almost total say.”
Current laws “don’t allow me to drive my truck on someone’s property and start digging a hole,” he said.
It can take almost a year to get a permit to drill, he noted.
Citing Cache Creek as an example, Grunenburg also said that some municipalities are crying out for the kind of jobs the mining industry brings. The village’s mayor is pushing the province to encourage development of a metals refinery in the Interior.
Grunenburg also warned B.C. is competing for investment in mining with jurisdictions around the world.
Coun. Marg Spina, who is at the UBCM annual meeting in Vancouver, said communities are feeling it’s time they were included in the consultation process around new mines.
“They don’t have that right with the mines act. And we all have official community plans, so we’re the ones tasked with planning the city development. But we’re not included when someone wants to put in a mine, gravel pit or anything else in the classification, within city boundaries,” she said.
The Tofino mayor spoke passionately about how difficult it is to plan a community for future development if someone else decides to do a major project in town without looking at the official community plan or the impact on residents.
“It was a vivid debate, with all sides participating,” she said.
The resolution will go to the province government for consideration and provides a good barometer of how people feel and what they want, she said.
Representatives of the Kamloops Exploration Group and the Mining Association of B.C. could not be reached for comment by deadline.