Premier Christy Clark says the Huckleberry Mine expansion is proof that her government’s jobs plan, which promised nine expansions and eight new mine openings by 2015, is already working.
“It’s an ambitious goal, and this is part of meeting that goal,” Clark said last Thursday before she delivered the keynote speech at the ninth annual B.C. Natural Resource Forum in Prince George.
On Dec. 30, the provincial government approved a revised Mines Act permit that allows Huckleberry Mine to expand a tailings pond so that it can continue mining new copper reserves until 2021.
As the Houston Today reported last week, the expansion will secure 230 existing jobs and add 70 new ones. From 2014 to 2021, Huckleberry Mines Ltd. expects to pay employees about $254.4 million in wages and benefits.
“The expansion of this mine brings jobs and economic benefits, not only to central B.C. but to the whole province,” Clark said. “The north really is the beating heart of our economy. “
Two days before Huckleberry Mine got the green light to expand, the province announced a timeline to deal with a backlog of similar permit applications.
In November, it came to light that 6,915 environmental permits had piled up at B.C.’s environmental and natural resources ministries.
Members of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU), which made the backlog public after filing a Freedom of Information request, said it is a direct result of staff cuts to biologists, geologists and other front-line ministry workers.
On Dec. 28, B.C.’s natural resources ministry said in a release that it plans to get through 80 per cent of its Notice of Work permits by Aug. 21, and halve the number of Land and Water Act applications by Dec. 31. The permits apply to mines and other natural resource development projects.
Along with reducing the permits backlog, the B.C. government is offering mining companies a variety of tax incentives to get digging.
Under the new incentives, companies will get a a 20 per cent refundable tax credit for mining exploration, and a new Mine Allowance will give mining companies that start or expand production before 2016 the equivalent of a 133 per cent deduction in start-up costs.