Blog post by Tim McEwan, Senior Vice President, Corporate Affairs, MABC
As global demand for critical minerals accelerates, the time for BC and Canada to act is now. Both levels of government must move quickly from ‘aspiration’ to ‘execution’ to address perennial challenges with permitting and authorizations for major mining projects.
As Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources Jonathan Wilkinson said at last year’s PDAC conference, “going forward it simply cannot be the case that it takes up to 15 years to develop and bring into production new mines”.
Minister Wilkinson’s Critical Minerals Strategy and BC Mines Minister Josie Osborne’s mandate letter – both issued last December – acknowledge that permitting timelines for major mine projects are a serious problem.
The stakes are high.
BC has seven near-term mining projects currently in the environmental assessment (EA) process or seeking an amendment to an existing EA. Others are seeking various provincial permits after receiving an EA certificate. All are within a year or two of making a final investment decision.
Beyond these near-term projects, there are another 10 advanced mine developments entering the regulatory process within the next 3-6 years.
The Mining Association of BC has outlined steps both the federal and provincial government should take – together – to improve permitting timelines:
- Align approval processes for projects of ‘regional significance’ and ensure a seamless federal-BC approach to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
- Trigger concerted early Indigenous engagement once a project is designated ‘regionally significant’ and help expedite proponents’ efforts to obtain partnership agreements and equity participation.
- Establish an Intragovernmental Critical Minerals Major Investments Office to coordinate federal agencies and liaise with provincial and territorial governments on major mine project reviews.
- Streamline the federal Impact Assessment Act (IAA) process to increase timeliness and certainty of process and process outcomes. Determine the “best placed regulator” and deploy “substitution” for environmental assessments requiring both an IAA and a B.C. EA wherever possible. “One project, one process” should be the rule, rather than the exception.
These measures go hand-in-hand with important work required to accelerate implementation of BC and federal laws adopting UNDRIP. This will be the subject of my next post. Stay tuned!