BC Mining Issue:BC’s current EA model does not adequately evaluate long term risks and benefits associated with mining projects and ignores broader issues, such as society’s need for the project and whether minerals might be better left for use by future generations.
Fair Mining Best Practice:BC law should require the assessment of a proposed mining project’s direct and indirect effects.
Environmental Assessments (EAs) are the process of identifying, evaluating and mitigating the ecological, social and other relevant effects of a proposed activity prior to deciding whether to authorize or reject it.
In BC, federal and provincial laws may subject mining projects to environmental assessments, which are generally conducted after the exploration stage and before the development stage.
BC’s current environmental assessment model does not adequately evaluate long-term risks and benefits associated with projects and ignores larger issues, such as society’s need for the project, meaningful First Nation consultation, and whether the minerals might be better left for use by future generations.
In BC, environmental assessments are largely founded on analysis and information provided by the proponent.
Shortcomings within BC’s environmental assessment legislation include:
- A project’s size determines whether or not an environmental assessment should take place, rather than basing the decision on environmental or social concerns.
- Having no minimum standards for the scope of an environmental assessment.
- Failing to ensure meaningful First Nations consultation by not legally formalizing its process and scope.
- Lacking legal guidance on which to base decisions and not requiring to take into account First Nation’s positions or public opinion.
- Not assessing the cumulative effects of proposed mining activities.
- Not being required to give reasons for approvals.
- Lacking adequate appeal processes.
In BC, only two mining projects have ever been denied an EA Certificate through the provincial environmental assessment process
BC’s environmental assessment process needs to become more transparent and fair. This process can begin by ensuring the information provided by mining companies is unbiased by requiring qualified professionals to prepare assessments used in EAs. Developing a separate First Nations consultation protocol and including the public in a meaningful way, will all contribute to a more equitable EA process.
Further, at the minimum, BC should require EAs for all mining activities within the province, allow for the consideration of potential alternatives to a proposed project, and require the assessment of direct, indirect and cumulative effects of a proposed project on First Nations’ traditional land.
This section focuses on BC’s EA laws, compares those laws to other jurisdictions and suggests solutions to the legislative gaps within BC’s EA laws.