The fourth phase in the mine licensing process – after a mineral claim has been staked, exploration work has identified a profitable ore body, and (in most cases) an environmental assessment has been conducted – is the mine permitting phase.1
In contrast to a mineral claim (which only grants the miner the right to the minerals in the ground) or the permits for exploration activities (which only grant the miner the right to enter on the land to explore and search for the minerals), the mine permit grants the miner the right to use the land to exploit the minerals in the ground. These rights allow the miner to carry out more intrusive mining activities, build new mine facilities and disturb more land.
Under BC’s Mines Act, permits (“mine permits”) are usually required for:
- surface or underground development or production;
- major expansions or modifications to existing producing mines; and
- underground exploration requiring excavation, large pilot projects, bulk samples, trial cargos or test shipments.2
To obtain a mine permit, the proponent must submit a Mines Act application (“mine application”) and a project description to the Ministry of Energy and Mines (see Content of Mine Permit Application, below). The proponent may also be required to publish a “notice of filing” application in the BC Gazette and in a local newspaper.3 Following the publishing of such notice and before a permit can be issued, a 30 day review period is provided for responses from any person affected by, or interested in, the mine application.4 Greater public involvement may be required at the discretion of the Mining Operations Branch Regional Manager or the Manager, Reclamation and Permitting for “Major Mine applications”.5
The mine application is reviewed by the Regional Mine Development Review Committee (RMDRC), which makes a recommendation to the Chief Inspector as to whether or not the mine permit should be granted (see Criteria for evaluating mine permit application, below). Before making this recommendation, the government may first be required to consult First Nations.6
This chapter considers the legal requirements associated with the application for, and issuance of, a mine permit, including:
- mine permit exemptions;
- mine permit application requirements (applicant, content and fees);
- criteria for review of mine permit application;
- conditions to attach to mine permits; and
- mine permit amendment, renewal and transfer requirements.