On February 1, 2016, the government of BC and representatives from First Nations, environmental groups and the coastal forest industry celebrated an agreement about land designations along the north and central Coast of BC, referred to as the Great Bear Rainforest. The agreement protects 85% of the forest from timber harvesting, while allowing logging in 15% of the area. Although the announcement made reference to economic development and jobs for local First Nations, the media coverage portrayed the announcement as involving only four parties: First Nations, environmental non-government organizations, BC Government, and the forestry industry. However, AME BC and the broader mineral exploration and development industry have been actively involved in discussions leading up to the agreement since 2002. More recently, AME BC provided detailed recommendations on August 10, 2015 to the BC government to ensure that any agreement allows for continued mineral exploration and development. Our industry has a very low impact on the environment, but can create significant socio-economic opportunities and benefits for communities along the north and central coast of BC, as well as providing benefits to all British Columbians.
What’s really happening
The Great Bear Rainforest agreement includes several changes to the proposed land use designations that were announced in June 2015 that affected industries beyond the four parties mentioned, including the mineral exploration and development industry. Significantly, two proposed Biodiversity, Mining and Tourism Areas (BMTAs) – Kitsault and Kimsquit – that AME BC had opposed have now been replaced with Special Forest Management Areas that have fewer land use restrictions. The Special Forest Management Area designation allows for hydroelectric development, mineral exploration and mining, and tourism. The allowance for hydroelectric production is significant as this may be a cost-effective method of providing clean energy to future mine projects in the Kitsault River basin, with power sales to BC Hydro potentially offsetting the costs of developing the necessary infrastructure.
What action AME BC is taking
AME BC’s solutions and recommendations provided in our August 10, 2015 submission were considered and incorporated into the Great Bear Rainforest agreement. In our submission, AME BC clearly outlined that we did not support the proposed Kitsault and Kimsquit Biodiversity, Mining and Tourism Areas (BMTAs) because there was a proposed ban on commercial hydroelectric production in these areas, in addition to such a designation being considered a de-facto protected area to our industry. AME BC also noted that there was a lack of detail and scientific evidence in the consultation documents provided to substantiate a BMTA designation.
AME BC will continue to monitor land access and use designations in the Great Bear Rainforest to ensure that access to areas with mineral exploration and development potential are permanently kept open. AME BC will also continue to encourage the government to develop joint solutions with industry while further streamlining and clarifying land use regulations in the Great Bear Rainforest, and elsewhere in BC, to support mineral exploration and development.