Of the total provincial land base, 14.97% (or approximately 14.2 million hectares) of provincial land is under conservation or park-related land use designations is Off Limits to prospecting and mineral exploration activity!
Can you imagine the amount of undiscovered mineral wealth that is located in these vast areas! Lost jobs, lost revenues and lost badly needed Economic Activity here in the province. And it does not stop there as more environmental groups are putting further pressure on the government.
Mines are where you find them, and as we all know mineral resources are distributed evenly across the province, so this could mean that 30 to 40% of our mineral endowment may already be lost. Prospecting and grass roots mineral exploration has No Impact on the Environment!
Unlike forest resources, where the resource is renewable and visible, mineral deposits are hidden, non-renewable, and geographically fixed. It was reported in the Tumbler Ridge News in May 2004 that mining represents the highest value use to which a hectare of land can be put. “While Forestry gets $5700 per hectare, and agriculture a mere $1400, mining brings in, on average, $150,000 per hectare used.”
Mineral exploration and mining provide vital materials, generate business and employment activities and contribute significant wealth to all regions of the province. While the province is a global leader in mineral exploration and development, only a small area of the provincial land base is disturbed by exploration and mine development. Registered mineral tenures typically cover less than 15% of BC’s geographic area at any one time. As reported by the Chief Inspector, the land actually impacted by coal and metallic mine production activities in 2013 was 23, 473 and 23,834 hectares respectively for a total of 47,307 hectares. This amounts to 0.05% of the province and over 40% of this land is now under active reclamation.
British Columbia has a total land base of 95,144,678 hectares. This land base is managed by various land use classifications such as No Registration Reserves, Provincial Parks, National Parks and Conservancies, as well as numerous other land use designations created under the Province’s strategic planning frameworks.
THE CHALLENGES TO MINERAL EXPLORATION AND DEVELOPMENT
There are many competing interests across British Columbia’s landscape. The aim of the two-zone system is to ensure that mineral exploration and mining applications are considered, subject to existing legislation, in all areas except parks, ecological reserves, protected heritage property or where mining has been prohibited by an order under the Environmental and Land Use Act; however, the industry continues to face challenges.
The vast majority of mineral exploration companies do not produce revenue and therefore must rely on the public or private investment facilities. Exploration is considered a high risk investment given that the likelihood of an exploration project becoming a mine is extremely rare.