An array of cabinet ministers speak to resource development approvals at B.C. Natural Resources Forum Jan. 21: Energy and Mines Minister Bruce Ralston, Environment Minister George Heyman, Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon, Indigenous Relations Minister Murray Rankin, Minister of State for Lands and Natural Resource Operations Nathan Cullen and Forests Minister Katrine Conroy. (BCNRF)

An array of cabinet ministers speak to resource development approvals at B.C. Natural Resources Forum Jan. 21: Energy and Mines Minister Bruce Ralston, Environment Minister George Heyman, Jobs Minister Ravi Kahlon, Indigenous Relations Minister Murray Rankin, Minister of State for Lands and Natural Resource Operations Nathan Cullen and Forests Minister Katrine Conroy. (BCNRF)

B.C.s low-carbon economy plan depends on faster resource permits

13 years to allow a mine won’t work, cabinet ministers reminded

B.C.’s advantages as a low-carbon, Indigenous rights-sensitive jurisdiction with an abundance of clean electricity, metals, minerals and natural gas were the talk of the B.C. Natural Resources Forum this week. But one big disadvantage kept coming up.

Participants in the annual forum, held online from Vancouver instead of its usual host city of Prince George, were greeted by an array of five cabinet ministers and one minister of state in charge of resource development permits. And as the moderator twice reminded them during the cabinet ministers panel, it currently takes an average of 13 years to go from investment decision to approval of a new mine in B.C.

Premier John Horgan acknowledged the problem in his address to the forum Thursday, describing the latest government reorganization to get ministries working together better to rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What we need to do is retool our permitting process,” Horgan told the forum from his office in Victoria Jan. 28. “The days of let ’er rip are gone. The days of responsible development have arrived.”

Forests Minister Katrine Conroy and Environment Minister George Heyman acknowledged the long-standing permit logjam, both saying the core issue is insufficient government staff to deal with permits in an increasingly complex world. B.C. is attempting to lead the country in implementing the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, starting with a new environmental assessment that requires Indigenous partnership before the application is even submitted.

Heyman said he was warned by now-retired forests and lands minister Doug Donaldson that without sufficient ministry staff to get permits done, a long backlog is inevitable. The problem goes back to the early years of the Gordon Campbell government, which created the mega-ministry the NDP government is preparing to break up. It was first raised by former B.C. Liberal minister George Abbott, who has since written a book on the topic entitled Big Promises, Small Government.

Skeena MLA Nathan Cullen’s assignment is to build a sixth ministry to deal with land and resource management, covering 95 per cent of the province and grappling with road impacts on caribou as well as the environmental risks of mining and logging.

“We want to make it easier for good products to come to market,” Cullen told the resource forum.

Energy and Mines Minister Bruce Ralston noted that mine projects awaiting approval include Blackwater gold mine south of Vanderhoof, a restart of the Eskay Creek gold mine in Tahltan territory in the far northwest, and an extension of Highland Valley Copper south of Ashcroft.

RELATED: B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in future

RELATED: Copper Mountain has expansion plans for 2021

Ralston said B.C. is well positioned for “ESG investment,” which stands for environmental, social and governance considerations in addition to a return to shareholders. He referred to the latest annual letter to CEOs from Larry Fink, head of Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager with $7 trillion in investments. Fink announced that environmental sustainability will become more important as the world economy emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

B.C. Hydro continues work on its increasingly costly Site C dam, with highway closures again this weekend to move a second huge water turbine from Prince Rupert to the site near Fort St. John. The federal government has committed $85 million for B.C. to shift industries using carbon fuels to electricity, with a key user of Site C power being the oil and gas industry.

“Whether it’s mining or the gas sector, we’re seeing innovation,” due to B.C.’s early adoption of a carbon tax, said Heyman, who headed Sierra Club B.C. before becoming an NDP MLA.

One of the biggest disruptions in B.C. resource projects has been objections from Indigenous communities. Taking questions from Kendra Johnston, CEO of the Association of Mineral Exploration B.C., Horgan said one of the biggest problems of the pandemic is a lack of progress with Wet’suwet’en people disputing the LNG Canada project, the largest private sector investment in B.C. history. With in-person meetings halted due to COVID-19, improving online connectivity with the scattered, remote communities of B.C.’s north is a high priority for the 2021 B.C. budget, he said.

Former NDP MP and law professor Murray Rankin is B.C.’s new Indigenous relations minister, who has to make all B.C. laws consistent with the UN declaration, as directed by legislation passed before the pandemic. He told the forum that B.C.’s transformation means moving from “transactional agreements” on resource development to one based on human rights and self-government for the more than 200 Indigenous communities in B.C.

“We’re trying to create an environment where people are confident in investing,” Rankin said.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureforestrymining

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

High winds Friday made perfect conditions for kite-surfers near the White Rock Pier. (Aaron Hinks photo)
PHOTOS: Kite-surfers take flight near White Rock Pier

Aerial performance put on near iconic waterfront attraction

B.C. researchers are asking for the public’s help in monitoring the bat population. (Cathy Koot photo)
Semiahmoo Peninsula residents asked to monitor bat activity

Researchers keeping eye on spread of white-nose syndrome

White Rock City Hall (Peace Arch News photo)
City of White Rock seeking input on draft financial plan

Plan includes tax rate increase of 4.28 per cent

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. (Graeme Roy/The Canadian Press)
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Feb. 28

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

(Black Press - file photo)
WEATHER: Enjoy the sun today, prepare for a week of rain

Clouds and rain to arrive by evening, Environment Canada forecasts

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Alina Durham, mother of Shaelene Bell, lights candles on behalf of Bell’s two sons during a vigil on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO and PHOTOS: Candlelight vigil for missing Chilliwack woman sends message of hope

Small group of family, friends gathered to shine light for 23-year-old mother Shaelene Bell

Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Approximate location of the vehicle incident. (Google Maps)
Vehicle incident blocking Coquihalla traffic in both directions

Both directions of traffic stopped due to vehicle incident

Most Read