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Opinion: Nobody is more passionate about protecting BC’s environment than British Columbians

We’d like you to know BC’s mining industry is deeply committed to responsible resource development.

  • Wednesday, September 1, 2021 11:28am
  • Opinion

By Michael Goehring

Nobody is more passionate about protecting British Columbia’s environment than British Columbians, which is why our provincial government has implemented strong measures to combat climate change and ensure responsible resource development.

British Columbia’s mining industry was an early adopter of hydro-electric power across much of our industry over the past century, and our province was the first jurisdiction in North America to establish a broad-based carbon tax to incent GHG emission reductions. Today, BC’s world-class mining and smelting operations have among the lowest GHG emissions in the world.

The impacts of climate change are real for Alaskans and British Columbians. Wind turbines, electric vehicles, solar panels and other cleantech products all have one thing in common: they require substantial quantities of metal and minerals. British Columbia’s mines and smelters are leading global suppliers of the low carbon minerals and metals the world needs to transition to a cleaner, low carbon future.

A recent My Turn in the Empire made inaccurate statements about the laws and regulations governing British Columbia’s mining industry, and questioned our commitment to socially and environmentally responsible mining.

[Opinion: Opinion: Canada’s transboundary mine waste dams must be banned; BC’s industrialization of salmon habitat halted]

BC’s mining industry meets some of the highest regulatory standards in the world for environmental assessment, operational permitting, compliance and enforcement, and post-closure monitoring and reclamation. The Government of British Columbia has made substantial changes to the laws governing mining in recent years, including a new Mines Act, a revised Health, Safety and Reclamation Code, new water quality guidelines, and ongoing monitoring to protect downstream communities and critical salmon habitat.

Of note, mines with tailings storage facilities are now required by law to implement new design and operational criteria using best available technology, establish engineers of record, and create independent tailings review boards.

The BC government created a new Mines Health, Safety and Reclamation Division in 2019 to enhance the oversight and monitoring of operating and closed mines. They also appointed a committee with Indigenous, labour and industry representatives to ensure mining regulations continue to protect health, safety and the environment on an ongoing basis.

Last year, an independent Chief Mines Auditor was appointed and empowered to conduct audits to evaluate the effectiveness of BC’s mining laws. How do we rate? The first audit conducted by the Chief Mines Auditor compared BC’s regulations with those in other mining jurisdictions—including Alaska and Montana—on 13 elements of tailings management and engineering. The audit found BC’s TSF regulatory framework is among the best in the world.

BC mining companies are also committed to advancing economic reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. For many years, BC mining operators have partnered with local Indigenous communities to share economic benefits, including employment and contracting opportunities. There is more work to be done, and we’re working collaboratively to get there.

The province of British Columbia has embraced – and enshrined into law – the principles of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Today there are active negotiations for BC’s first consent-based decision-making agreement in the mining industry under BC’s Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

Continuous improvement is a foundation of the mining sector. Recently, our association published the BC Mining Innovation Roadmap outlining our industry’s path to improve competitiveness, sustainability and resilience through innovation. Our industry has long embraced innovation as the way to improve our efficiency, reduce waste, and decrease our environmental footprint. The roadmap builds on that success, establishing ways to further improve our ability to meet evolving societal and customer preferences and contemporary expectations for environmental, social and governance performance.

As our neighbor, we’d like you to know that BC’s mining industry is deeply committed to responsible resource development and fully supports the Government of British Columbia’s concerted focus on rigorous environmental standards backstopped by strict sanctions for non-compliance.

• Michael Goehring is the president and CEO of the Mining Association of BC, the voice of British Columbia’s steelmaking coal, metal and mineral producers, smelters and advanced development companies since 1901.Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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