May 2010

Encouraging developments

Associations eager for streamlined environmental assessment processes

By P. Caulfield

Neither the federal budget nor the throne speech in British Columbia promised any big-ticket goodies to Canadian explorers and miners; however, reaction by mining associations to the intentions of these governments in their latest legislative sessions has been generally positive.

The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) said in an announcement that it is encouraged by Ottawa’s pledge to develop a clearer process for project approval, as well as by its intention to support Northern development and Aboriginal Canadians.

“The government’s commitment to responsible development of Canada’s energy and mineral resources by untangling the daunting maze of regulations that needlessly complicates project approvals, replacing it with simpler, clearer processes that offer improved environmental protection and greater certainty to industry, is a positive signal that Canada is serious about responsible resource development,” said MAC president and CEO Gordon Peeling. “This commitment,” he continued, “is a positive signal that the government recognizes that Canada’s mining industry is integral to this country’s recovery and long-term prosperity.”

The Northern Regulatory Improvement Initiative, designed to support the acceleration of the review of resource projects in the North, also earned support from MAC, which called it “a positive signal” that addresses the potential economic prosperity the North can provide.

Out in British Columbia, Lena Brommeland, chair of the Association for Mineral Exploration BC (AME BC), said that in its budget speech the BC government demonstrated “a prudent commitment” to return to balanced budgets in 2013-14. “It provides a certainty we’re all looking for,” she added.

Brommeland said the AME BC also welcomed the three-year extension of the BC Mining Flow-Through Share Tax Credit until 2013 and its commitment to the electrification of Highway 37 in northwestern BC. The association decried, however, the government’s decision to cut the budget of the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources by approximately 14 per cent, given that revenue from the metal, coal and minerals sector is expected to add $1.15 billion to the provincial government’s treasury.

As on the federal level, the provincial mining association applauded the BC government’s “concerted efforts to reduce duplication of effort in permitting and environmental assessment processes with the federal government.” In the provincial Throne speech, the government said “the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling on the Red Chris mine project demands immediate action to rationalize public approvals both within our government and between governments. The government will work with other provinces and the federal government to establish one process for one project.”

Jamie Lawson, assistant professor in Canadian politics in the political science department at the University of Victoria, says the BC budget speech shows a shift in what the provincial government sees as BC’s primary resource industries.

“Until recently forestry was the big contributor to provincial revenues,” Lawson said. “But now, mining and oil and gas are in much better shape and in a position to contribute more to the government coffers.”

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