January 24, 2005

BC plan to support environmentally, economically healthy mining industry

Fourteen broad strategies and more than 50 specific actions are detailed in a new long-term plan for a sustainable, economically healthy mining industry in British Columbia. The new BC Mining Plan, released last week by provincial Energy and Mines Minister Richard Neufeld and Minister of State for Mining Pat Bell, is intended to support the four cornerstones of a healthy, responsible industry.

These cornerstones are:

-protecting the environment and workers, including continuous improvements in standards and practices;

-focus on communities and First Nations, including a made-in-BC approach to sustainable mining;

-access to land, including enhanced integration of exploration and mining activities with other land uses; and

-global competitiveness, including actions to increase investment and further develop relevant skills and technologies.

The report is the culmination of work by a government task force which toured the province during 2003, receiving input from BC communities and the mineral exploration and mining sectors. Activity in BC's mining sector has grown steadily in recent years: exploration spending, for example, has increased from $29 million in 2001 to a projected value of as much as $120 million for 2004. The Wolverine mine development has just received an environmental assessment certificate (see News Summary, this issue) and 13 other new mine proposals are currently going through the provincial Environmental Assesment Act review process. The plan aims to foster the continued resurgence of the mining sector without compromising other important land use values.

The BC Mining Plan pledges to ensure the continuous improvement of science-based standards for environmental, health and safety protection in exploration and mining. It also includes a commitment to collaboration with industry, First Nations, communities, other levels of government and other interested parties to promote BC's leadership in environmental stewardship and sustainable mining. Strategies and actions within this cornerstone of the plan call, among other things, for BC to:

(a) Lead in environmental standards and practices, through actions such as

(i) beginning a series of regional workshops in 2005 with industry, government and environmental groups to build on existing high-calibre environmental and reclamation guidelines;

(ii) setting up a new program of focused inspections and audits at exploration and mine sites to improve compliance with environmental standards and practices; and

(iii) providing continued recognition and support for exemplary environmental performance in mining activities through the annual Mine Reclamation Awards program.

(b) Collaborate on environmental challenges, through activities such as

(i) compiling an inventory of historic mine sites and assessing them for potential environmental challenges, through continuing participation in the national Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Initiative;

(ii) in 2006, developing "user-friendly" best management guides for mining exploration, building on existing standards and practices;

(iii) working in partnership with industry to find new opportunities for recycling metals and minerals; and

(iv) supporting the Britannia project, to transform an abandoned mine site into an interpretive centre illustrating the opportunities and challenges associated with mineral resource development.

The BC Mining Plan may be viewed on-line at www.gov.bc.ca/em/down/mining_plan_jan_17_05.pdf.

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