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AME slams British Columbia’s approach on Mineral Tenure Act overhaul

British Columbia’s mining sector is being sidelined in the province’s push to overhaul regulations around mineral claims, the Association for Mineral Exploration (AME) says.

In the court-mandated overhaul of the Mineral Tenure Act (MTA), which must be completed by early 2025, the industry has been reduced to listen-only status, AME president and CEO Keerit Jutla says. The industry was caught by surprise Thursday, when B.C. issued interim orders to protect Gitxaala Nation and Ehattesaht Nation’s mineral interests, and also outlined a process for cooperation and consultation for modernizing the Mineral Tenure Act.

“Industry and stakeholders are not being engaged in the manner and weight and importance that we should be,” Jutla said in an interview. “We’re getting brought in on these issues at the very last minute. And when we are, we’re being asked to sign NDAs and to kind of listen to feedback. But that’s all it is, feedback; it’s not input into a decision being made. It’s just FYI.”

Jutla questions the current state of industry engagement, and highlights a lasting disconnect between industry consultations and government actions. “Ensuring their ability to explore is at the crux of our members’ interests,” Jutla said.

Regulatory uncertainties hit junior companies and individual prospectors hard, stifling innovation and growth. These entities struggle with financial and operational barriers due to unclear regulations.

“Not everyone has the bankroll of tech companies. Every dollar matters,” Jutla said.

The AME does not expect more interim measures that restrict mineral claims in other parts of the province. “It remains business as usual for our members in the rest of B.C.,” he said.

Orders in council

B.C.’s Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation ministry said in two statements the interim measures were implemented following an agreement with Gitxaała and Ehattesaht nations.

The interim measures respond to a Supreme Court decision from September 2023, requiring consultation with First Nations prior to mineral registration. The ruling aims to address the adverse impacts on their lands, mandating B.C. to revise the MTA within 18 months to incorporate consultation requirements. Following the new provincial measures, First Nations temporarily halted some appeals, impacting mining activities and new permits in Gitxaała and Ehattesaht territories and halting new mineral claims without their consent.

“The current MTA is entirely inconsistent with and undermines our title and rights, including our inherent rights to self-determination and self-governance,” B.C. Assembly of First Nations regional chief Terry Teegee said in a statement.

The mines ministry said that cooperation, consultation with First Nations, and engagement with industry and interested groups will launch this month.

Despite governmental investments such as the C$24-million launch of a critical mineral strategy earlier this year, there remains “a significant lack of clarity and certainty” on mining investments, Jutla says.

This ambiguity hurts the industry’s ability to plan and operate efficiently. “We do not have clarity on the regulatory framework, and we do not have certainty on the land base,” he said.

Building bridges

Despite these challenges, Jutla still believes it’s possible for the industry, government, and Indigenous communities to work harmoniously together to foster mutual respect, understanding, and economic prosperity.

“We can’t build that bright future unless we’re all talking and working together in a very good positive way, building innovative solutions,” Jutla said.

AME advocates for early and frequent engagement and encourages its members to build strong, respectful relationships with Indigenous communities.

“The stronger of a relationship you have with anyone, the better you can do any type of business,” Jutla said. “It’s right to respect Indigenous rights, traditions, and interests in land-use decisions. It is reasonable for the industry to seek clarity and certainty as the government moves forward.”

Source: MINING.COM – Read More