Bcmlr Terrace Meeting

Mining Law Reform: Exploring Transition Minerals

BC Mining Law Reform Network Launch : May 2019

In 2019, the ELC joined with organizations throughout the province to create the BC Mining Law Reform Network (BCMLR) and to launch a mining law reform platform, which was intended to guide mining law reform in BC for the next decade and included recommendations for modernizing BC’s mineral tenure system.

Since the platform launch, the ELC continues to stay involved with the BCMLR and folks all over the province by working on law reform and responding to the impacts of mining on communities and the environment.

In recent years there have been a few signs of change, including the BC government’s commitment to modernize the Mineral Tenure Act in consultation and cooperation with Indigenous organizations and communities, and to undertake watershed planning and the collaborative governance of water with Indigenous communities, a goal that ELC staff have been supporting for many years.

Other changes include the BC government’s interim policy changing bonding rules for mining, which requires new mines and any existing mines having less than five years of remaining minerals reserves to post full reclamation security. (Government acknowledged that these changes were informed by the Polluter Pays BCMLR platform report.) In late February, ELC Clinic lawyer Patricia Weber travelled to Terrace, BC to participate in a mining law reform strategy session hosted by Northern Confluence, BC Mining Law Reform and MiningWatch Canada.

Bcmlr Terrace Meeting

Transition Minerals: Now and Never 

Patricia Weber, ELC Clinic Lawyer

Canada’s rush to transition from fossil fuels to electric power means that Canada is considering how to make mining ‘critical’ minerals, those required in electric power, more easily attainable. This pressure carries environmental concerns and substantial risks of further infringing Indigenous authority. The BC Mining Law Reform Network hosted a strategy session to consider ways for Canadian governments to respond to the emerging energy transition in a responsible and sustainable manner.

Conference attendees learned how the transition to electric can be done in a way that respects Indigenous Nations. Naxginkw/Tara Marsden (Hlimoo Sustainable Solutions) discussed how the Gitanyow Hereditary Chiefs have their own permitting and water laws with which industry must comply. Representatives from Gitxaała Nation and their legal counsel discussed how they successfully challenged BC’s Mineral Tenure Act and how they are working now to create a more respectful permitting system.

Broadly, the conference explored solutions to how energy transition could be more sustainable. This means reducing consumption on a structural level, increasing public transit infrastructure to reduce the number of cars, and designing extended producer responsibility programs so that the metals in batteries can be recycled and reused, rather than mining for new metals. This points to the existing problem: Fighting climate change does not mean the government creates policies to encourage the shift to electric-based economy if these policies are not environmentally sustainable or respectful of Indigenous rights. This observation highlights the need for groups to continue to inform Canadian governments to make sure that any transition is done correctly.