The provincial minister for Energy and Mines outlined government actions on policy and funding, increasing competitiveness, strengthening First Nations involvement and enhancing responsible resource development.
Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett touts the industry’s growth in the province., noting that the mining workforce has doubled to 30,000 since the B.C. Liberals were elected in 2001.
“After a particularly long and difficult commodities downturn, the mining industry is on the road to recovery and well-positioned to take advantage of strengthening prices,” said Bennett. ”Our mining industry is environmentally responsible and a great job creator for our rural communities and also creates many jobs in Vancouver’s 700 head offices.”
Bennett says government has taken action to keep the industry competitive over the last four years, with steps such as:
• Increasing the ministry’s budget by $18 million over three years for mines permitting and oversight, which is additional funding over a $$4.85 lift in 2015.
• Eliminating PST on electricity for the next two years.
• Allowing mining companies to temporarily defer a portion of hydro bills during slow activity from low commodity prices.
• Adding community engagement as a deductible expense for a mineral exploration tax credit program.
• Establishing a mine permitting office to improve coordination of the permitting process.
Karina Brino, the president and CEO of the Mining Association of B.C., lauded the government’s initiative in attracting investment and creating jobs in the industry.
“As the outlook for mining continues to improve, we have the potential to grow our industry and provide family-supporting jobs across B.C.,” said Brino, “and to continue our long-standing commitment to environmental stewardship and positive partnerships with communities and First Nations.”
Bennett also said it has been a government priority to strengthen First Nations involvement in the mining industry, especially with royalty shares. According to a government release, $26 million in direct mineral tax revenues has gone into First Nations communities.
Additionally, the B.C. Mine Information website was launched to help include more First Nations perspectives in reviewing mining legislation and increasing transparency.
Bennett also pointed to the tailings pond breach at the Mount Polley mine site in August 2014, noting that government has made progress on 17 recommendations from a report from the Auditor General on compliance and enforcement.
“Mining is essential to our economy and to all regions of the province, but it can only happen with the confidence of the public,” Bennett said. “To that end, our government has made significant changes to how mining is done in British Columbia, including new policies, additional resources and funding to improve permitting processes and strengthen compliance and enforcement.”
Regional mines recognized for safety records
Two East Kootenay mines have been recognized by the provincial government for safety records last year as the province announced the 55th annual Mine Safety Awards.
The province recognized the Greenhills mine, operated by Teck Coal Ltd, and CertainTeed Gypsum Canada Inc., from Windermere, along with 53 other mining and quarry operations for their dedication to safety in 2016.
Each award winner accumulated 15,000 or more worker hours with the lowest injury-frequency rate over the last 12 months.
“The mining sector is vital to our province’s economy and it’s important to recognize the people and companies that have contributed to making mining one of our safest heavy industries,” said Bill Bennett, the Minister of Energy and Mines. “Tonight’s awards honour mining operations that have shown their dedication to meeting and exceeding our province’s high safety standards. Congratulations to tonight’s award recipients and thank you for the work you do.”
According to a provincial government press release, there are 30,000 people employed in mineral exploration, mining and related escorts in B.C.
The awards highlight industry workers, unions and ministry staff for their commitment to health and safety.
The Mine Safety Awards was established in 1961 and eight years later, B.C. was one of the first jurisdictions in Canada to introduce health and safety legislation and regulations for the provincial mining sector.