Mineral Prospecting and Exploration

Conditions to Attach to Exploration Permits

Financial Security

Overview of BC Law

In BC, the information regarding reclamation submitted in the Notice of Work application is used to determine the appropriate amount of security that the applicant may be required to post before commencing exploration.87 However, the posting of security is not required in all cases: the Chief Inspector may exempt a miner from having to comply with the permitting and security requirements under section 10 of the Mines Act. The BC First Nations Energy and Mining Council has recommended that BC’s permissive laws in this matter be replaced with mandatory reclamation security requirements for all exploration activities.88

More information regarding mine security and compensation can be found in Chapter 10: Securing the Cost of Mine Clean-up.


Exploration activities can have serious environmental impacts. Without the mandatory posting of security bonds, the consequence of pollution and the costs of remediation may be borne by the public and First Nations instead of by the proponent who caused that pollution.

Recommended Solutions

Require reclamation security for all exploration activities

[Tags: Bonding; Security; Remediation; Exploration]

In contrast to BC’s permissive system, reclamation bonds are mandatory for exploration activities in other jurisdictions. In both Montana and New Mexico, a bond must be filed as a prerequisite to obtaining an exploration permit.89 Similarly, in Colorado, “upon filing the notice of intent to conduct prospecting, the person shall provide financial warranty in the amount of two thousand dollars per acre of the land to be disturbed or such other amount as determined by the board”.90 Within 30 days of completed reclamation of lands prospected upon, the regulatory authority must inspect the lands. Financial warranties will only be released if this inspection shows that reclamation has been adequately completed.91 In Mongolia, an exploration licence holder must deposit an amount equal to 50% of the environmental protection budget, which is only refunded on full implementation of the environmental protection plan.92

Extend compensation to First Nations for damage caused by exploration activities to First Nations

[Tags: Compensation; Exploration]

In BC, private landowners may be entitled to compensation for damages arising from exploration activities on their land. In other jurisdictions, compensation is afforded not only to landowners but also to ‘third parties’, which could include Indigenous Peoples. In Colombia, for example, proponents are legally required to compensate third parties for damage caused by exploration activities, and further exploration activities are prohibited until such compensation is paid.93 Such laws provide a useful incentive to ensure that miners conduct exploration activities in a responsible manner.

Protection of Cultural Heritage

Overview of BC Law

Under BC legislation, the free miner’s right of entry does not extend to “protected heritage properties”.94 Three separate legal processes exist by which to have property designated as a “protected heritage property”. Land or objects may be protected under: heritage conservation legislation; municipal laws; or official community plans.95

Under BC’s Heritage Conservation Act, the following are automatically protected:96

  • provincial heritage sites or objects;
  • burial places with historical archaeological value;97
  • Indigenous rock paintings or carvings;
  • sites that contain artefacts, features, materials or other physical evidence of human habitation or use before 1846; and
  • sites or objects that are of particular spiritual, ceremonial or other cultural value to the Indigenous people.98

It is an offence to alter, knowingly or unknowingly, any of the above-listed protected sites or objects without a permit. Because the offence does not require specific intent, the Act applies to undiscovered sites that are disturbed by chance. In most cases, protected heritage properties are identified through an archaeological impact assessment, which forms part of the “technical exploration and development process” required under the Mineral Tenure Act Regulations.99

Persons who wish to alter a protected object or site must apply to the Archaeological Branch for a site alteration permit.100 Issuing permits to alter or disturb cultural and heritage sites is a routine matter and applications for site alteration permits are rarely denied.101 In deciding whether to issue the permit, the Archaeological Branch will ensure the site has been assessed by a professional archaeologist and seek comments from any First Nations whose traditional territories include the site in question.102 If the permit is issued, it may be accompanied by conditions regarding the preservation and remediation of the object or site.

Automatic protection is not afforded to:

  • sites that contain artefacts, features, materials or other physical evidence of human habitation or use after 1846;103 or
  • sites or objects that are of particular spiritual, ceremonial or other cultural value to the Indigenous people where there is no physical evidence of historical human use.

For those sites and objects that are not granted automatic protection, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may designate various sites and objects as “protected heritage properties”.104 Although this process has been used to designate historical buildings as protected heritage properties, it has apparently never been successfully used to designate a First Nations’ spiritual site or object as a provincial heritage site or object. Given the lack of such designations, First Nations have had to rely on consultations with government and industry to identify these sites and negotiate their protection.  First Nations are working with the BC government to implement legislative and policy amendments to enable First Nations to manage and protect their cultural and heritage sites.105

The Act also provides for agreements for the conservation and protection of heritage sites and objects to be made between Indigenous peoples and the provincial government.106 Heritage sites and objects of particular “spiritual, ceremonial or other cultural” importance to an Indigenous community, which are attached as a schedule to such an agreement, will be granted legal protection as “protected heritage properties”.107

The protection of heritage properties may also occur at the local level, as municipal and regional governments are empowered to designate property with heritage value or character as “protected heritage properties”.108 Finally, properties designated by municipal governments are granted additional protection when they are incorporated in a schedule to an official community plan that limits their possible uses.109


BC’s current laws offer inadequate protection to many important cultural heritage resources.

Recommended Solutions

Immediately cease work and report if a cultural site or object is discovered during exploration activities

[Tags: Exploration; Cultural Heritage]

If a miner discovers a First Nation cultural object or site at any time in the mining process, the miner should stop work, notify both the local First Nation community and the provincial government, and protect the site or object from damage. This is recognized in the Australia state of New South Wales, where legal provisions mandate that miners must stop work immediately and notify the government of the location of any discovery of culturally significant object or site. If the Indigenous object is human skeletal remains, the miner must stop work, secure the area to prevent unauthorized access, and report it to the police and the government.110

Report and record discovery of cultural sites and objects during exploration activities

[Tags: Exploration; Cultural Heritage; Archaeology; Database]

If a proponent accidentally discovers an archaeological site, the BC government requests the proponent to notify by telephone the Archaeology Branch of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations.111 There is no legal requirement for proponents to notify local First Nations of the discovery.

By contrast, if an archaeologist discovered a culturally important site in BC, he or she has a professional responsibility to:

  • identify those First Nations that have an interest in an area, prior to conducting any archaeological field investigation;
  • inform those First Nations who have an interest in an area, prior to conducting any archaeological field investigation, that field work in planned;
  • recognize, and make an effort to follow, archaeological protocols, policies, and permit systems established by First Nations;
  • respect First Nations protocols governing the investigation, removal, curation and reburial of human remains and associated objects; and
  • communicate the results of archaeological investigations to cultural groups in a timely and accessible manner.112

In the Yukon, discoveries of archaeological objects, paleontological objects, human remains, or burial sites must be reported, as soon as practicable, to the Chief of Mining Land Use.113 Such discoveries must be immediately marked and protected from further disturbance.114 No further activities may be carried out within 30 metres of the site until the Chief of Mining Land Use indicates, in writing, that the activities may be resumed.115

The notification of discoveries is also legally required in Australia, where Indigenous peoples must be kept informed of such discoveries. There it is a strict liability offence for miners to disturb “Aboriginal objects”.116 Only if miners can prove they engaged in prior meaningful consultation with Indigenous peoples will they be able to rely on the due diligence defence.117

In addition to reporting the discovery of cultural sites, it is useful to ensure that these discoveries are recorded in a central database or register. New South Wales (Australia) maintains a database (ie, the Aboriginal Heritage Information Management System) of Aboriginal objects and places, which can be accessed to inform cultural heritage assessments for activities that disturb the ground surface or affect culturally modified trees.118 A similar database and register is maintained by the Queensland (Australia) government and is accessible by proponents to determine whether there is any registered cultural heritage present that may be affected by exploration/mining activities.119 BC also maintains a Provincial Archaeological Report Library and an online inventory of provincial archaeological sites, which is available to federal and provincial agencies with land or resource management responsibilities, local governments, First Nation governments, and professional consulting archaeologists.120 In BC’s forestry industry, this data is compared to forestry plans: where areas of high potential for historical sites exist, the forestry company is required to conduct an assessment on the ground.121 No similar requirement is mandated for BC’s mining industry.

Environment Safeguards

Exploration activities can cause various impacts to ecological health, including impacts on:122

  • land use from camp, airstrip and road construction, line cutting, drilling and fuel storage;
  • water quality from erosion, drilling fluids and abandoned boreholes; and
  • wildlife from habitat destruction, noise pollution, waste generation and impacts to migratory patterns.

Overview of BC Law

BC’s Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in British Columbia (HSR Code) requires environmental protection from mineral exploration activities, as follows:123

  • Community watersheds: in community watersheds, the miner must first notify the water licence holder and prepare a contingency plan to restore potable water in the event that exploration activities adversely impact potable water quality and quantity. If water impacts occur during exploration, the miner must immediately cease exploration activities and take remedial action. The HSR Code also requires maintenance of drainage patterns, protection of stream stability, no degradation of potable water supply intakes and contingency plans, notification requirements, remedial actions where potable water quality and quantity impacted. However, this only applies to designated community watersheds and not to watersheds used by First Nations.
  • Riparian management: limits on activities within riparian setbacks.
  • Soil conservation: minimize soil losses.
  • Terrain stability: maintenance of terrain stability, preparation of remediation plans where terrain stability impacted.
  • Water management: exploration activities must be carried out in a manner that maintains surface and subsurface drainage patterns within the range of natural variability; protects stream channel stability; and does not degrade water quality at a potable water supply intake. Where there is a risk of impact to natural surface and subsurface drainage, structurally sound, functional and stable drainage systems must be constructed that minimize erosion, unstable slopes, and water flows across the site or onto reclaimed areas.
  • Fuel and lubricants: containment storage with buffer from streams, lakes and wetlands, refuelling outside riparian setbacks, removal of hydrocarbon containers.
  • Exploration access: minimize surface disturbance, reclamation to stable and safe use, minimum clearing of standing timber, acid rock drainage materials not to be used, no interference with groundwater domestic supplies, ongoing monitoring and maintenance program, deactivation and reclamation, bridge certified by qualified person, regular inspections, designs for peak flows.
  • Drilling: limits on locations of drill sites, use of containment devices, emergency spill kits, equipment and waste disposal.
  • Camps: clean and safe condition, secured from wildlife, reclamation, removal of waste, equipment and explosives, backfilling of refuse pits.
  • Reclamation: reclamation within one year of cessation of exploration, backfilling of pits and trenches, measures for minimizing noxious weeds and erosion, re-vegetation, and reclamation reporting.


Although BC law prescribes certain environmental protection measures, it lacks other provisions that would further protect long-term ecological health from exploration activities. The following recommended solutions exceed the environmental protection provisions currently mandated by BC law.

Recommended Solutions

Increase riparian setbacks for exploration activities

[Tags: Exploration; Water; Environmental]

Riparian setbacks, when appropriately sized, can reduce stream-bank erosion, filter out pollutants, and protect aquatic and terrestrial habitat. Under BC legislation, riparian setback distances for drilling and exploration access are specified as follows:124

  • Streams (range depends on stream width):
    • drilling: 5 to 50 metres
    • exploration access: 17 to 70 metres
    • Wetlands (range depends on wetland size):
      • drilling: 10 metres
      • exploration access: 10 to 30 metres
    • Lakes (distance not dependent on lake size):
      • drilling: 10 metres
      • exploration access: 30 metres

Scientific studies indicate that these distances are inadequate to properly protect the riverine environments. Studies suggest that buffers must be 30 metres wide to maintain a healthy biota and, that a width of 9 meters is the absolute minimum.125 As noted above, BC law permits a minimum buffer of 5 meters on some streams and only 10 metres around some wetlands and lakes.126

Other jurisdictions have higher minimum setback distances. For example, Saskatchewan legislation prohibits any exploratory drilling, trenching, hydraulic stripping of overburden or disposal of waste products, within a strict 30-metre setback from lake and stream beds.127 Ontario’s legislation establishes a 70-meter setback from bodies of water for ‘disruptive mineral exploration’ activities that involve cutting trees, or carrying out mechanical stripping, trenching, diamond drilling or bulk sampling.128 Manitoba’s legislation offers another approach to protecting water resources from exploration activities. There, the regulatory authority has broad discretion to impose conditions on drilling when drilling is likely to create a hazard to water-bearing formations (such as groundwater aquifers) or unreasonable injury or damage to the environment.129

Require proponents to report discoveries of uranium or thorium

[Tags: Exploration; Uranium; Thorium; Radioactive]

Uranium mining, which is federally regulated by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, is banned in BC.130 Nevertheless, there is a possibility that uranium may be inadvertently discovered during exploration. BC law recognizes this possibility and mandates that where standard assay results show uranium mineralization (in a grade of 0.05% by weight or greater) or thorium mineralization (in a grade of 0. 5% by weight or greater), the miner must:131

  • completely seal all drill holes with concrete on completion of exploration;
  • take all practicable precautions to ensure no drilling fluid, water or drill cuttings contaminate any drinking water supply, irrigation water supply, or surface water;
  • provide all persons working at the exploration site with an approved gamma radiation dosimeter; and
  • ensure that no person is exposed to a whole body dose of more than 5 millisieverts in a 12-month period.

However, no mandatory legal requirements are specified for reporting unexpected uranium discoveries. In contrast, in Australia, any person that discovers uranium must report the discovery to the Commonwealth government.132 In Ghana, where licences are granted for specific minerals, miners must report the discovery of minerals that are not included in their mineral licences. This ensures that any unexpected discoveries of uranium would be reported where these are not specifically included in the mining licence.133 These approaches ensure that the regulatory authority is aware of the risk, and can notify local communities accordingly.

Exploration Access Roads & Water Crossings

Overview of BC Law

Exploration access roads and water crossings are regulated under BC law. Legal provisions mandate that exploration access roads and water crossings be constructed, maintained, deactivated and reclaimed in a manner that ensures they are safe and stable. These activities must also be carried out in a manner that:134

  • minimizes erosion or the degradation of a stream, lake or wetland by the introduction of sediment, debris or deleterious matter;
  • minimizes adverse impacts on stream channels;
  • provides for drainage systems that maintain stability of the road prism;
  • does not cause harmful alteration, damage or destruction of fish habitat; and
  • minimizes the surface disturbance necessary to complete the proposed work.

Specific legal requirements for exploration access roads are as follows:135

  • minimum clearing of timber;
  • prohibition from using acid-generating materials for exploration access surfacing or ballasting (unless approved by an inspector);
  • prohibition from interfering with groundwater flows that contribute to licenced domestic water supplies (unless there are no other practicable options and the impacts can be mitigated); and
  • routine monitoring and maintenance program.

Specific legal requirements for stream crossings are as follows:136

  • construction, maintenance, deactivation and reclamation in a manner that allows safe fish passage and protects fish habitat at, above and below the stream crossing;
  • certification (or approval by qualified person) of bridge design and fabrication;
  • regular inspections of bridges and correction of deficiencies as soon as practicable; and
  • design, construction and maintenance of bridges, stream culverts and their approaches for peak flows.

At the end of exploration, access roads must be deactivated in a manner that stabilizes roads, restores or maintains drainage patterns, and minimizes soil erosion to the extent practicable.137 Final reclamation must result in: restored drainage patterns; removal of bridge superstructures, substructures (if failure would affect downstream values) and stream culverts; a stable surface that minimizes future erosion; and the establishment of self-sustaining vegetation appropriate for the site.138


Although road construction and water crossings are heavily regulated in BC, the following recommended solutions suggest additional legal provisions that could further protect long-term ecological health from mineral exploration activities.

Recommended Solutions

Create legal and policy requirements to work with First Nations, other ministries and environmental experts to manage access

[Tags: Exploration; Environment; Roads; Vehicles]

Forestry, mining, hydro, recreation and other uses may all create different road accesses, trails and liner disturbances.  Increased road access causes multiple issues, including environmental degradation, increased hunting and predation and linear disturbances to wildlife.  There are currently no requirements for miners or the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Natural Gas to manage road access with other ministries, First Nations and environmental experts to minimize impacts.

Require proponents to suspend or relocate vehicle use in the event of road degradation

[Tags: Exploration; Environment; Roads; Vehicles]

Yukon law mandates that if any rutting, gouging, or ponding occurs on the road, vehicle use must be suspended or relocated to ground that is capable of bearing the weight of the vehicle without causing such damage.139

Require installation of permanent structures or retaining banks on abandoned access roads to control erosion and siltation

[Tags: Exploration; Environment; Roads; Erosion]

In Newfoundland and Labrador, miners must install permanent structures or retaining banks on abandoned exploration access roads to control potential erosion and siltation. This promotes long-term certainty that erosion and siltation will not impact watercourses.140

Exploration Camps

Overview of BC Law

BC law regulates the how miners must leave exploration camps:

  • if the exploration camp will be used for future exploration activities, it must be left in a clean and safe condition and where practicable secured from wildlife access.141
  • if the exploration camp will not be used for future exploration activities, it must be dismantled, removed and the site reclaimed (unless exempt from so doing by an inspector).142

Before leaving a camp (either for the season or permanently), the miner must:143

  • remove, burn or bury all refuse so that it does not attract wildlife;
  • backfill all refuse pits; and
  • remove all food and explosives.


BC’s current regulation of exploration camps offers inadequate environmental protection.

Recommended Solutions

Require ongoing refuse management and site maintenance at exploration camps

[Tags: Exploration; Environment; Camp; Waste; Food]

As indicated above, BC law mandates that exploration camps be left in a clean state at the end of exploration activities. However, there are no requirements regarding on-going site maintenance during exploration. Poor maintenance practices (such as the improper storage of food) often attract wildlife and habituate them to humans. This is problematic and often leads to the animals having to be destroyed. To help prevent this, on-going maintenance of exploration camps should be required while exploration activities are being carried out. This need is recognized in the Yukon where all solid waste, including debris, equipment, barrels, drums, and scrap metal, must be safely stored on the site of the exploration program while the program is carried out and must be disposed of in accordance with the Solid Waste Regulation when the program ceases.144 In addition, the law requires that camps be kept clean and tidy.145

Decrease allowable time for exploration camp removal

[Tags: Exploration; Environment; Camps]

BC law mandates that exploration camps be dismantled and removed within one year when they are not to be used for future exploration activities.146 In contrast, Zambian legislation mandates that any camp, temporary building or machinery must be removed within 60 days of the expiry or termination of a prospecting licence.147 This ensures prompt removal and clean-up of exploration camps.


Overview of BC Law

Drilling is an important aspect of mineral exploration activities. However, drill cuttings and additives can significantly impact water quality, aquatic and wildlife habitat, and humans that come into contact with them. Adequate regulation must therefore be in place to protect local ecosystems and communities from these potential impacts.

Under BC legislation, drill sites may not be located within:148

  • streams;
  • lakes (unless a management plan has been approved by an inspector);
  • known wetlands (unless exploration is conducted when: the ground is frozen; there is no standing water at the drill site; or a management plan has been submitted and approved by the regulatory authority); or
  • riparian setbacks (unless the regulatory authority has granted authorization and management plans include provision for the management of drilling discharge).

Drilling activities are also subject to the following legal requirements:

  • absorbent mats and containment devices must be used for pumps and pump fuel supplies to prevent spilled liquid hydrocarbons from escaping;149
  • practicable measures must be taken to manage the flow of drilling discharge, and minimize the impact on watercourses throughout drilling operations;
  • appropriate emergency spill kits must be readily available at all active drill and water supply pump sites;
  • groundwater must not be permitted to flow from completed drill holes without the written authorization of an inspector; and
  • all equipment, waste and other refuse must be disposed of properly upon abandonment of an exploration drill site.


Although drilling activities are regulated in BC, additional provisions could substantially reduce the impacts of drilling on the environment at exploration sites in the province.

Recommended Solutions

Determine drill site location through access and/or exploration agreements

[Tags: Exploration; Drilling; Access Agreements; Exploration Agreements]

First Nations should be involved in drill siting to ensure there is no overlap with established no-go zones (such as cultural heritage sites) on their traditional territories. This can be done by including drill site locations in the access and/or exploration agreement between the proponent and the Indigenous community. As described above, many jurisdictions already require that access and/or exploration agreements be in place before exploration activities (such as drilling) may commence.

Prohibit use of non-biodegradable and toxic drilling fluids

[Tags: Exploration; Environment; Drilling; Fluids]

BC’s Handbook for Mineral and Coal Exploration recommends against using non-biodegradable and non-toxic drill additives and fluids.150 However, this recommendation is not mandatory. Conversely, in Alberta, the regulations mandate that no test hole be drilled or abandoned using fluids or materials that contain harmful contaminants.151

Require proper storage of fuel and lubricants, including secondary containment storage

[Tags: Exploration; Hazardous Materials; Environmental]

The Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in British Columbia specifies the following legal requirements for fuel and lubricants:152

  • liquid hydrocarbon products must be stored within a containment that minimizes the possibility of accidental discharge to the environment;
  • bulk liquid hydrocarbon products must not be stored within 30 meters of a watercourse (unless authorized by an inspector);
  • ground-based machinery must not be fuelled or serviced within riparian setback distances specified for drilling; and
  • all hydrocarbon containers (empty or full) must be removed from every exploration site by the end of each field season (unless otherwise authorized by an inspector).

BC laws do not specify any requirements for secondary containment structures. In contrast, under Yukon legislation, a secondary containment structure must be constructed for any petroleum fuel storage capacity that exceeds 4,000 liters.153 This ensures greater environmental protection from higher risk fuel storage.

Regulate management of drill fluids, re-circulate drill muds and contain sumps

[Tags: Exploration; Environment; Drilling; Fluids]

In the Yukon, specific legal provisions have been adopted to promote responsible management of drill fluids (also referred to as “drill muds”). These legal provisions mandate that:

  • drill muds be re-circulated when possible;154
  • all drill fluids must be contained in a sump;155 and
  • drilling wastes (fluids, cuttings and mud) must not be left within 30 m of a water body.156

Similarly, in Manitoba, legal provisions mandate that no drill wastes may be discharged in water ways or onto adjacent lands.157

Require preservation of drill core samples

[Tags: Exploration; Drilling; Drill Core]

Drill core samples are expensive to obtain. If labelled and stored properly, however, they can provide valuable information to future prospectors. Although the preservation of drill cores could help avoid duplication of work and minimize unnecessary exploration, BC does not require their preservation. In contrast, India and Papua New Guinea’s laws require the preservation of drill cores.158 Other jurisdictions mandate that core may only be disposed of with the express consent of the regulatory authority. In Ghana, for example, this consent may only be granted after consultation with the Geological Survey Department.159 Similarly, in Manitoba it is illegal to abandon or destroy drill cores without prior permission from the regulatory authority.160 In Finland, miners must provide the regulator with a representative sample of drill cores within six months of the expiry of an exploration permit.161

Require submission of borehole logs to regulatory authority

[Tags: Exploration; Drilling; Borehole Logs; Database]

Drill borehole logs may also contain important information for regional groundwater aquifer mapping. This data should therefore be submitted to regulatory authorities for use in a regional ecological database. Submission of borehole logs is a legal requirement in several jurisdictions, including Manitoba162 and Botswana.163

Require management of ground subsidence caused by drilling activities and prohibit use of contaminated or noxious materials to fill subsidence areas

[Tags: Exploration; Environment; Drilling; Reclamation]

Ground subsidence is the downward shift of the earth that can occur from mining activities such as drilling. In BC, there are no requirements that subsidence areas be filled, nor does BC regulate the materials that may be used as fill. In Alberta, specific provisions have been enacted to address ground subsidence that occurs as a result of drilling. These provisions mandate that in the occurrence of such subsidence, the miner must take the necessary action to fill in the area of subsidence so that the ground level is the same as it was before the test hole was drilled and to minimize any further subsidence. In addition, any material used to fill areas of subsidence must be free of noxious weeds and harmful contaminants.164

Regulate drill hole abandonment: contaminants; fluid movement; and sealants

[Tags: Exploration; Drilling; Reclamation]

BC law does not specify any requirements for reclaiming abandoned drill holes. Provincial policy does however recommend that drill holes be sealed along their entire length.165 Stronger legal requirements for drill hole abandonment are provided in other jurisdictions. For example:

  • In Alberta, proponents are prohibited from abandoning drill holes with fluids or materials that contain harmful contaminants, or in a manner that would permit the movement of water from one aquifer or groundwater formation to another, or from the surface of land to an aquifer or other groundwater formation.166
  • In Manitoba, proponents must abandon drill holes in a manner that prevents the vertical movement of fluids between permeable water bearing zones penetrated by the borehole.167 In addition, the entire borehole must be grouted, or alternatively a mechanical plug must be employed in combination with grouting for hole abandonment.168
  • In Colorado, drill hole abandonment must be carried out immediately following the drilling of the hole and the probing for minerals in the prospecting process. Drill holes that need to be maintained as temporarily abandoned must be securely covered in a manner that will prevent injury to both persons and animals.169
  • In Oregon, the mining regulatory authority must consult with the government department responsible for water management regarding the development of rules for drill hole abandonment.170
Require identification on exploration equipment

[Tags: Exploration, Enforcement]

No specific regulation of exploration equipment is provided under BC law. This may make it difficult for government officials to identify proponents and enforce the terms of a permit or licence. In contrast, Alberta’s laws require that miners display a unique identification number on exploration equipment and operate exploration equipment in accordance with the exploration permit.171


Overview of BC Law

In BC, reclamation requirements are specified for general exploration activities, including:

  • reclaim mechanically disturbed sites, campsites and exploration access within 1 year of cessation of exploration (unless authorized in writing by an inspector);172
  • backfill and reclaim pits and trenches prior to abandonment;173
  • stabilize exploration site, access road prism and clearing widths;174
    • restore drainage patterns;175
    • minimize soil erosion and the establishment of noxious weeds;176 and
    • re-vegetate exploration sites to a self-sustaining state with species appropriate for the site.177


Although BC laws require certain reclamation efforts, additional provisions could substantially improve the effectiveness of reclamation of areas disturbed by exploration activities.

Recommended Solutions

Backfill trenches by using overburden and bedrock and replacing vegetative mat

[Tags: Exploration; Reclamation; Trench]

In the Yukon, legal provisions clearly describe the backfill process required for excavation trenches. This process requires that trenches constructed with mechanized equipment be backfilled by first depositing any removed overburden and bedrock, and then replacing the vegetative mat that was removed to construct the trench.178

Require use of certain species for re-vegetation

[Tags: Exploration; Reclamation]

Although BC law recommends that species used to re-vegetate an area be suitable for the site, Saskatchewan law goes further in requiring that “all native seeds require a certificate of seed analysis to be submitted to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment for approval”. Saskatchewan also has publications on native species recommended for site restoration for the province’s different eco-regions.179

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