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Government exempts 'low-impact' mining activities from permit process

The B.C. government has proposed to change what activities would be regulated by the Mines Act, in what the province characterizes as an attempt to cut "unnecessary red tape," by exempting certain "low-impact" activities.

Maya Stano, a Vancouver-based professional engineer, sees it differently. In comments submitted to the province, Stano said that the proposed changes would see mining companies neglect consultations with First Nations, cultural awareness, and cumulative impacts of several individually "low-impact" activities in one area.

The activities to be exempted from the permitting process outlined in the proposal are mostly administrative changes or exploration activities: Induced polarization surveys using exposed, energized electrodes that includes no ground disturbance or temporary camps; new drill programs for mineral or coal exploration in the existing permitted area of a producing mine; changes in the timing of a permitted mineral or coal exploration activity by up to two years; and administrative name changes.

Stano argues that the province, rather than eliminating certain assessment requirements, should reform the mining permit regime to include these concerns. B.C. already does not require permits for prospecting activities, she says, so rather than an attempt to bring B.C. standards closer to other jurisdictions (many of which do require permits for prospecting), this is an example of the province moving further away from other parts of the world.

Another area in which the province is falling short of other jurisdictions, according to Stano, is in the realm of cultural sensitivity. Currently, "miners in BC are not required to have any prior knowledge or understanding of First Nations' rights and concerns," said Stano in her statement. "Other jurisdictions [such as Ontario and Western Australia] have taken affirmative steps to encourage cultural sensitivity amongst miners operating on the traditional territories of Aboriginal peoples."

The province is accepting public comments on the changes for only one month, and that period concludes Dec. 25.

Jimmy Thomson recently completed a practicum at The Tyee.

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