An Exclusive Interview with Minister Ralston

Minister Ralston commits to regulatory excellence to guide ‘good projects through the hurdles’

Monday was Mining Day at the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia in Victoria and New Democratic Party (NDP) MLA Bruce Ralston attended for the first time in his new role as Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. AME took the opportunity to speak with Minister Ralston about his recent appointment and his plans to address the priorities for AME members.

Ralston, MLA for Surrey-Whalley since 2005, is not new to the sector. As he recalled during a short address to members on the final day of Roundup 2020, he has had a keen interest in mining since he made a successful investment in Grouse Creek Mine as an 11-year-old boy. He has maintained that interest in mining finance and attended AME Roundup on occasion while in Opposition since 2010.

Expedited permitting

In response to the issue of permitting, one of AME members’ most pressing concerns, Ralston said that his plan is “to improve and properly resource the approvals process, not to skimp on the detail that is required but to accelerate the process.”

“It is understandable that there is sometimes concern that approvals are taking longer than they might reasonably require,” said Ralston, “We’ve heard that message and that’s part of the commitment from the previous minister and I’m continuing that, to make a commitment to regulatory excellence to get good projects through the hurdles and into production.”

Ralston received an updated mandate letter from Premier John Horgan on February 11 that directed him to work with his “colleagues on the Environment and Land Use Committee on regulatory initiatives, with a near-term emphasis on expedited permit processing and reconciliation initiatives in the mining sector.”

To make progress on this task, Ralston said he is committed to implementing the recommendations of the Mining Jobs Task Force, as Minister Michelle Mungall did before him.

BC’s competitiveness as an exploration jurisdiction

Ralston said he is “aware of the competitiveness challenges” and will use the recommendations of the Mining Jobs Task Force to promote B.C. and attract investors to exploration projects in B.C. He points to the permanency of the B.C. Mining Exploration Tax Credit and BC Mining Flow-Through Share Tax Credit as steps in the right direction.

In a news release on Monday, the MEMPR stated that these tax credits, together with a “focus on permitting efficiency and global reputation for environmental responsibility make B.C. an attractive place for investment”.

Public Geoscience

Ralston recognises the value of public geoscience to mineral explorers and noted that another recommendation of the Mining Jobs Task Force was to coordinate and adequately resource a geoscience strategy that would support growth of the exploration and mining industry.

“The previous minister was very supportive of Geoscience BC,” said Ralston, “I’m quite familiar with the work they do and the value of the work they do. [Geoscience] needs to be publicly available so it can be acted upon.”

Ralston was not able to provide an update on the two vacant regional geologist positions at the B.C. Geological Survey but agreed that they are important positions.

Reconciliation

Through individual mandate letters, Premier Horgan has encouraged all his Ministers to make “timely progress on the implementation of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act ”. From what he has seen so far, and a conversation with Chad Norman Day, President of the Tahltan Central Government and AME Board Member, he thinks explorers in B.C. are on the right track.

“I think the mining sector and the exploration sector is a good example of collaboration,” said Ralston, “[Day] did speak about the intense exploration activities that are taking place in the northwest and he and his group work very closely with exploration companies. I think that’s a good example of what can be done and should be done.”

“I think that’s a model that we will need to give more emphasis to,” said Ralston.

In the field

Ralston visited Teck’s Highland Valley Copper mine and New Gold’s New Afton mine earlier in February and has committed to visit B.C.’s major mines by the end of the summer. AME President and CEO, Kendra Johnston, hopes that Minister Ralston will visit some grassroots exploration sites as well to speak with members face-to-face.

“I just want AME members to know that I am accessible and I’m interested to hear what they have to say,” said Ralston, “My goal is to create a prosperous mining sector, a world-class mining jurisdiction that all British Columbians can be proud of.”

AME participated in multiple engagement and consultation sessions as a member of the Mining Jobs Task Force (MJTF) sinces its launch in February 2018. The Mining Jobs Task Force is an initiative of the B.C. Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources. We encourage you to read the full report on the BC Government website.

By Kylie Williams