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

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Coastal GasLink begins COVID screening of pipeline workers

Construction is once again ramping up following Northern Health approval of COVID management plan

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

(Black Press file photo)
Charges laid against two suspects in pre-Christmas home invasion

An 88-year-old woman was hospitalized after being bear-sprayed in the face Dec. 18, 2020

Liam and Tyler Spaans, (L-R), are two of the current lifeguards at the Houston Leisure Facility. (Houston Leisure Services file photo)
Leisure facility anticipates need for lifeguards

Has been challenged in the past

Dr. Bonnie Henry leaves the podium after talking about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
COVID: 589 new cases in B.C., and 7 new deaths

No new outbreaks being reported Feb. 26

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

The Canada Revenue Agency says there were 32 tax fraud convictions across the country between April 2019 and March 2020. (Pixabay)
Vancouver man sentenced to 29 months, fined $645K for tax evasion, forgery

Michael Sholz reportedly forged documents to support ineligible tax credits linked to homeownership

Then-Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson looks on as MLA Shirley Bond answers questions during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria. (Chad Hipolito / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. Liberal party to choose next leader in February 2022

Candidates have until Nov. 30 to declare whether they are running

After nearly 10 months of investigations, Mounties have made an arrest in the tripping of an elderly woman in Burnaby this past April. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Mounties charge suspect for tripping elderly woman near Metrotown in April

32-year-old Hayun Song is accused of causing bodily harm to an 84-year-old using her walker

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives to view the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Death threats mount against Dr. Bonnie Henry, sparking condemnation from Horgan, Dix

Henry has become a staple on televisions in homes across British Columbia since January 2020

Most Read