Although BC has among the highest percentage of protected areas in Canada, its park legislation has been criticized for failing to clearly prioritize the preservation of ecological integrity and to acknowledge the importance of parks for future generations.153
Not all provincial park land in BC is protected from mining. For example, the Strathcona-Westmin Park on Vancouver Island houses the Myra Falls mine, which produces ore containing zinc, copper, lead, gold and silver, and has an annual production capacity of 1.4 million tons.154
Under BC’s provincial park legislation, the level of protection from mining activities depends on how a park is classified. Mining activities are only absolutely prohibited in:155
- small parks (less than 2,023 hectares);
- parks listed in Schedule D of the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act;
- ecological reserves; and
- designated wildland areas.
Mining activities may still be permitted in Class A parks (except for those listed in Schedule D of the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act), Class B parks, Class C parks, and recreation areas if the Minister:
- considers the mining activity is necessary for the preservation or maintenance of the recreational values of the park involved; and
- issues a “park use permit” or “resource use permit.156
Park use permits that were issued before 1995, when amendments to the park legislation were introduced, remain valid today. The Minister may renew these permits even where they conflict with the current legislation.157
It is also possible to allow or prevent mining activities to take place by modifying park boundaries. The regulatory authority has broad powers to modify park boundaries, to reduce park size, or even cancel a park.158 For example, large areas were removed from Tweedsmuir Park to make way for the Kemano hydro development project. There is, therefore, no guarantee that lands protected under BC’s park legislation will remain protected over the long-term.
These broad powers can also be used to expand park boundaries. However, recent amendments to the law provide that the government may be required to compensate the proponent in the event that lands with existing claims are added to a new park.159 In this manner, public funds may be used to “buy-back” the minerals that the Crown holds in trust for the public and which are transferred to a proponent at virtually no cost.