Two recent AME events discussed the new Registration of Firms requirement from Engineers and Geoscientists BC (EGBC) and provided an update on the Notice of Work (NoW) application process from BC’s Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation (EMLI).
New platform, old challenges
Based on data from January 2019 to August 2020, half of the mineral exploration NoW applications took longer than 167 days (less client delays) to receive a decision, and just 16% received a decision in less than 120 days. In the Northwest region in 2020, the average NoW processing time was 194 days, and in the South Central Region, 214 days.
At a Permitting Workshop hosted by AME on March 4, EMLI staff, including regional Mines Inspectors, supplied an update for AME members on what the department is doing to address slow processing times in all BC regions. EMLI staff discussed the continuous improvement project they are working on to improve efficiency and processing time, including a new platform called ‘Core’ and a new Mine Space industry portal. They are also working with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) to improve intake screening, remove duplication and reduce handoff delays.
Cranbrook-based Nadia Bruemmer, Senior Inspector of Mines, Permitting, said that the number one issue for permitting inspectors was the quality of the maps submitted with NoWs. Bruemmer suggested that those without professional GIS software should use the free iMapBC application and associated guide to avoid NoW’s being returned and delayed.
In the workshop question and answer period, an AME member expressed concern that the processing delays may impact BC’s competitiveness against provinces such as Ontario, where drill permits can be obtained in 30-60 days. Another asked about the possibility of scaled permits to avoid alarming First Nations and local communities when a Mines Permit comes to them for consideration.
There simply aren’t enough Mines Inspectors to keep up with the pace of exploration in BC.
Registration of firms starts in July
Regulation changes are also coming for explorers in BC this July. On February 5, 2021, the BC Professional Governance Act (PGA) came into force. The PGA oversees all five regulatory bodies in BC, including EGBC and its individual registrants, Professional Geoscientists (P.Geo.) and Professional Engineers (P.Eng.). The PGA replaces the individual acts that regulated each body previously and puts them all under the one umbrella.
At a virtual townhall meeting hosted by AME on February 25, a representative from the Office of the Superintendent of Professional Governance (OSPG) described the role of the OSPG and the PGA as “overseeing the overseers”. The town hall provided an opportunity for representatives from OSPG and EGBC to explain the impacts of the new regulations for explorers and for AME members to ask questions.
For explorers, the changes will have several impacts, but the largest will be the new requirement to register all firms (companies and sole practitioners) that engage in the practice of professional engineering or professional geoscience in BC. This summer, between July and September, eligible firms must develop and submit a Professional Practice Management Plan (PPMP) and pay an application fee plus an annual registration fee based on the number of EGBC registrants within the firm. In return, firms will be issued a Permit to Practice. In future, both the firm Permit to Practice number and the individual P.Geo. registrant number will appear on 43-101 reports, for example.
When asked why the change was occurring, EGBC’s Lindsay Steele, P.Geo., Associate Director, Professional Practice, said: “It always comes down to the protection of the public and the environment. By only regulating individual professionals, we are missing that other fundamental influence on the practice of the professions.”
“We’ve heard time and time again from individual practitioners that sometimes the management in their firm is not aligned with what they need to do as a professional. So by bringing alignment between the firm’s policies and procedures and the individual registrant’s obligations, it addresses that regulatory gap and addresses that second level of influence,” said Steele.
Other concerns raised by attendees included the financial and administrative burden on sole practitioners, how the new requirement will impact professionals who work in other provinces and territories, and how the additional regulatory burden will impact BC’s competitiveness.
For sole practitioners who are not employed by a firm, Steele said: “The cost of the program is 50% of what it would be for others, so it’s a flat rate of $250 every year for a sole practitioner.” In addition, she said, EGBC are working on templates to help sole practitioners fill out the necessary details about their policies and procedures required for registration.
More information about regulation of firms is available at egbc.ca/firms. Guidance related to mineral exploration firms in particular is available in an overview.