B.C.’s minister of mines toured the Cariboo region earlier in March visiting two mining operations and meeting with representatives from Williams Lake Indian Band and Xat’sull First Nation.
“We did a whole tour of Gibraltar Mine, which was pretty impressive,” Bruce Ralston told the Tribune.
“As you are aware, 700 people work there. We talked with them about their plans to continue.”
Ralston also visited Wells and toured the Barkerville Gold Company and Bonanza Ledge underground operations where, Ralston said, the company proposes to expand over the next few years.
“They estimate an 11-year mine life that should create over 300 jobs,” he said.
Referencing the B.C. Mining Jobs Task Force report recommendations and framework to support mining, Ralston said all 25 recommendations have been adopted, most have been implemented and some have been made permanent.
The mining flow-through share income tax credit was made permanent, which allows individuals to invest in flow-through shares to claim a non-refundable tax credit of 20 per cent of their B.C. flow-through mining expenditures.
An exploration tax credit was also made permanent and a tax credit for new mines was extended five years, he added.
“One of the big things I hear from the mining sector is about delays in permitting so $20 million extra has been put in to hire more staff, while not lowering any environmental or safety standards, but to proceed with permitting more quickly, which is a concern of the industry.”
Government is also looking at innovation in the mining sector as it is changing and can with new technology be more efficient and more profitable, Ralston said.
When the minister was at Highland Valley Copper in Logan Lake a couple of weeks ago he saw some autonomous vehicles that are operated remotely.
“There’s another company called Mine Sense and, through a computer software arrangement, actually mounted in a shovel does an instant assay of the mineral content of each shovel full and enables more rapid sorting and more efficient use of the shovel time so the industry is changing and we are interested in making sure that we can assist with that change.”
When asked about mine site reclamation costs being borne by the taxpayers, he responded there has been an evolution over the years of the obligation of companies to make a provision at the outset by way of posting a bond to provide for the eventual reclamation.
Most of the operating companies, he said, are aware of it, but many problems arrive from historic mines that are closed down where in the past a sufficient deposit wasn’t taken and the economic burden of undertaking that work falls on the government.
“The direction is to avoid that and without unduly burdening companies to ensure they do the reclamation as they go along, some of them do that, and ensure there are sufficient funds set aside at the end of the mine life.”
He said he did not visit Mount Polley Mine site, but added reclamation work continues there in response to the August 2014 tailings breach.
Ralston met with leadership from Soda Creek Indian Band and the Williams Lake Indian Band while he was in the region, as well.