The B.C. government has spent millions over the years to increase mineral exploration, but a survey of company executives suggests increasing worry about whether mining projects can receive the permits they need in a reasonable time.
Time and transparency of the permit process were increasing concerns of investors in B.C., Ontario and Quebec, according to an annual survey comparing Canada to other countries, released Tuesday by the Fraser Institute. The economic think tank has been surveying mining industry decision-makers since 1997.
Respondents to the 2017 survey indicated that permit approval times have lengthened in the past decade in B.C., Ontario and Quebec, compared with results from Australia and Scandinavia. The survey showed that confidence the necessary permits would be granted is also higher in the U.S.
Mining exploration across B.C.’s Interior has been a major focus for B.C. The previous government financed aerial magnetic surveys by Geoscience BC to look for signs of metal and mineral deposits across a vast area covered by glacial material from the past Ice Age.
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Geoscience BC has conducted 135 projects to assemble new scientific data for about half of the province’s area. The largest geophysical survey ever conducted in B.C. was done in 2016, financed by a $5 million grant from the province.
“An increasingly opaque and confusing application process for companies to explore for mineral deposits deters investment and ultimately hinders Canada’s ability to realize its considerable resource potential,” said Kenneth Green, co-author of Permit Times for Mining Exploration in 2017.
B.C.’s minority NDP government has embarked on a review of industrial project approvals to target what Environment Minister George Heyman called “failures in the professional reliance model in B.C. so that British Columbians’ faith in resource development can be restored.”
A consultant’s report recommending a new “office of professional regulation and oversight” for foresters, engineers, biologists and other professions was greeted with alarm by industry leaders.
Business Council of B.C. president Greg D’Avignon called the report “a solution looking for a problem that confuses regulatory capacity in government with the role of qualified professionals who design projects and conduct environmental surveys.”