Mines Act updates to improve permitting, regulation in B.C.

MORE effective mines permitting and better protection of workers, the environment and the public are among proposed updates to the Mines Act.

“With the changes we are bringing forward today, our government continues to act on the unanimous recommendations of the Mining Jobs Task Force to strengthen B.C.’s mining sector and improve the permitting process,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, on Monday. “The COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced that health and safety must remain a top priority as we continue to build a strong economic recovery that works for people.”

If passed, the legislation will create a new chief permitting officer position, distinct from the chief inspector of mines. The chief permitting officer will ensure the mine permitting process is efficient and effective. The chief inspector will retain responsibility for health, safety and enforcement.

The legislation will further strengthen government’s ability to hold mines accountable. These changes include strengthening investigation authorities, clarifying offence provisions and increasing the limitation period from three to five years in both the Mines Act and the Environmental Management Act.

The proposed changes will also formalize the creation of the Mine Audits and Effectiveness Unit, led by a chief auditor. This unit will conduct audits to ensure mining regulation in B.C. is effective and aligned with global best practices.

The proposed changes were informed by lessons learned from the Mount Polley disaster, recommendations from the Office of the Auditor General and the Mining Jobs Task Force, consultation with stakeholders and input received during the 2019 public comment period on the proposed changes to the Mines Act.

A more efficient and effective permitting process, strengthened regulatory oversight and the creation of an audit function will support quality economic growth for British Columbians while ensuring mining is conducted safely and responsibly.

Quick Facts:

* B.C.’s mining industry had an estimated value of production of nearly $9 billion in 2019.

* In 2018-19, the B.C. mining industry paid over $400 million in mineral taxes to the Province.

* Each direct job at a mine or smelter in B.C. supports at least two jobs in supply or services.