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 and the broader mineral exploration and development industry have been actively involved in discussions leading up to the agreement since 2002. More recently, AME 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 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 is taking
AME’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 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 also noted that there was a lack of detail and scientific evidence in the consultation documents provided to substantiate a BMTA designation.

AME 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 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.

Action that you or your organization can take 
The decision to remove restrictions on land access and use for mineral exploration and development in the Great Bear Rainforest is positive, and demonstrates that AME and our members’ input does influence public policy decisions. We encourage you to join AME in calling on government to continue streamlining and clarifying land use regulations as well as developing a more balanced decision-making process that better considers the value of BC’s hidden mineral resources.

An effective way for us to continue such a joint solutions-based dialogue with government is to have strong relationships with regional representatives who are impacted, or could be impacted, by a current or future land use designation. Please reach out to Rick Conte at [email protected] or 604.630.3926 to share your concerns and recommendations.

We also ask that members continue to pressure government to protect BC’s valuable, but hidden, mineral resources to enable exploration and responsible mineral development for the long term benefit of all British Columbians.