Regulating Exploration Activities
When a mineral deposit is discovered during prospecting, it will likely be explored further to determine its viability for long term mining operations. This means that the proponent has to perform tasks such as drilling, blasting and excavating. All these activities require a mine permit which is obtained by submitting a Notice of Work application.
The following section reviews the legal requirements for obtaining a permit for exploration activities and suggests way BC can modernize its regulating process.
Notice of Work applications must include, for example, a description of the project and site location. However, the information currently required in the application is insufficient for the government to make an informed decision about the potential environmental and social consequences of proposed activities. Possible solutions may include, for example, requiring socio-economic and environmental protection plans within the application.
Consultation at Notice of Work Application Stage
First Nations are provided 30 days to review and comment on a Notice of Work application. This is simply not enough time to evaluate the impact of proposed mining activities and craft a meaningful response. Further, as there are no provisions to ensure that consultation even takes place, BC mining laws should require this consultation at the permit application stage.
In BC, there is no requirement to inform the public about proposed mining activities
Criteria for Evaluating Notice of Work Applications
BC Legislation does not specify what factors the Minister must consider in deciding on whether to approve a Notice to Work application. This lack of criteria means that permits may be awarded regardless of First Nations’ consent or whether or not the proponent can meet their social and environmental obligations.
Legislatiion should require, for example, First Nations’ consent, consideration of a miner’s track record and the proponent’s plan for local employment.
Although not required, some agreements between mining companies and First Nations, such as the Tlingit, have been entered into voluntarily. However, laws are needed to ensure that other First Nations benefit from such agreements.