A Mineral Explorer’s Guide to Resource Roads
Mineral explorers rely on accessing British Columbia’s network of 700,000 kilometres of resource roads – ranging from access by all-terrain vehicles and light trucks for prospecting through heavy equipment for drilling programs.
This guide is aimed at providing mineral explorers with information on resource roads, particularly in troubleshooting problems related to access. AME continues to advocate toward certainty regarding resource roads – including access to lands with mineral potential, and timely notification to all tenure holders if and when roads are deactivated.
Find answers to your questions throughout this tool. A downloadable PDF guide is also available here:
How do I find information about resource roads online?
Note that iMapBC does not contain current information regarding road conditions (including closures, gates, bridge washouts and deactivation. Links to closure maps and lists can be accessed through the Resource Road Safety Information portal. The Resource Road Safety Information portal also includes useful information related to general road conditions, radio frequencies and other resources, although the extent of this information varies from district to district.
How to view Local Resource Roads
- Add Provincial Layers > Licences and Permits > Forest Road Sections > All Forest Road Sections – FTEN – Colour Themed
For each tenure section line, note the Life Cycle Status Code. ACTIVE suggests that motorized access is possible, while RETIRED road sections will likely not be accessible and may be reclaimed.
For each tenure section line, note the client name, which will indicate who has responsibility for maintaining the road. In most cases, it will be one of the following:
- DISTRICT MANAGER – contact the Natural Resource District.
- TIMBER SALES MANAGER – contact BC Timber Sales.
- Local forestry operations – contact the company mentioned; note that the location field may mention the relevant office location.
For a view of all related resource road tenures in one area, use the Explore by Location tool and generate a detailed Area of Interest Evaluation Report. Road tenures will appear in Section 3.
What are other sources of up-to-date information?
Although online information on resource roads may provide most useful information required to access mineral tenure, further information on resource roads is generally available through Natural Resource District Offices.
Note that the Resource Road Safety Information Portal contains specific contact information for road closures and deactivations for some districts.
Forestry operators – both BC Timber Sales and companies – maintain the majority of BC’s resource road network, and may have the most up-to-date information on many roads as well as provide access to gated areas that may be open to industry but generally off-limits to other users.
BC Timber Sales
BC Timber Sales has various roles including managing about 20 per cent of the province’s timber harvest, building and maintaining logging roads and reforesting harvested areas. The 12 local business offices may be a good source of information related to Forest Service Roads managed by BC Timber Sales as indicated in iMapBC.
Local Forestry Companies
Forestry companies are active on both Crown and private land. Active companies in any particular area can be identified through various layers in iMap including forest road tenure layers. Note that company deactivation plans are posted in the Resource Road Safety Information portal for each Natural Resource District.
Published contact information online varies by company. Larger companies are members of the BC Council of Forest Industries; links to member company websites are here.
What laws govern resource roads?
Resource roads are covered under various acts. Between 2009 and 2017, the province considered omnibus legislation through means including the Natural Resource Roads Act; however, since 2017, the province has aimed toward continual, incremental changes in legislation.
The following are some of the more common legislative tools used to govern resource roads:
Forest and Range Practices Act (FRPA)
The Forest and Range Practices Act, commonly referred to as FRPA (pronounced “fur-pa”), is the primary legislation that affects resource road management. Of particular note to the mineral exploration industry, legislated wildlife management practices, known as general wildlife measures, particularly related to ungulate winter range, may be used to either partly or fully restrict access1.
General wildlife measures (GWM) may have two impacts on explorers:
- Access routes are deactivated in accordance with GWM.
- Access for mineral and coal exploration may have seasonal and other restrictions, or may be arranged under an exemption to GWM through the Notice of Work process.
Regulations under the Wildlife Act including the Motor Vehicle Prohibition Regulation2, as well as the Closed Areas Regulation3 and Public Access Prohibition Regulation4, control access to roads in order to protect wildlife from hunting activities. Access restrictions related to hunting activities are published in the Hunting & Trapping Regulations Synopsis.
Often, commercial activities such as mineral exploration are permitted in roads that are otherwise closed5, but may require obtaining access through locked gates administered through the Natural Resource District.
Mineral Tenure Act
The Mineral Tenure Act protects access to mineral lands.6
Specifically related to road use, it provides that a Special Use Permit be granted for access to mineral titles. However, the Act does not provide that pre-existing access be maintained.
The Mineral Tenure Act also provides for access through private land, and provides a means for dispute resolution between mineral and surface rights holders in the event of a dispute related to access7. Related to accessing private land, the process is as follows:
- Serve notice to enter private land in accordance with section 2.1 of the Mineral Tenure Act Regulation8
- If the surface owner and the free miner cannot agree on the terms of access after notice is served, either or both parties may appeal to the Chief Gold Commissioner to mediate to resolve matters in dispute.
- If the Chief Gold Commissioner is unable to resolve the matters in dispute, then the Chief Gold Commissioner will sign the SRB application form from either party to appeal the dispute to the Surface Rights Board.
- The Surface Rights Board has authority to issue orders with respect to terms and conditions and access. (Note that such decisions are more common in the oil and gas industry than in the mineral exploration industry. However, written decisions on disputes under Section 19 of the Mineral Tenure Act and jurisdiction can be helpful to understand the Board’s interpretation of legislation and how disputes are settled.)
Mining Right of Way Act
The Mining Right of Way Act provides mineral tenure holders with the right to use a road on Crown or private land if the road was built under the Mining Right of Way Act or another Act9 as well as terms for using existing roads regulated by the Industrial Roads Act10 to access mineral tenure11. Similar to the Mineral Tenure Act, the Mining Right of Way Act provides a means for dispute resolution between a mineral tenure holder and access road owner, and the Surface Rights Board has authority to issue orders under this Act.
Access prohibitions can also be made under the Land Act and Motor Vehicle All Terrain Act, but these have a limited effect on mineral exploration activities.
What road authorizations might I need?
Depending on activities different permits may be needed for accessing and constructing roads. These include a Road Use Permit for using Forest Service Roads and a Special Use Permit for building access across Crown land. The Natural Resource Online Services portal contains further information. These permits are administered by Natural Resource District Offices separately from the Notice of Work application process.
These permits are administered by Natural Resource District Offices.
Two authorizations frequently needed to conduct mineral exploration are Road Use Permits and Special Use Permits. Further information on each is available from Natural Resource District offices or FrontCounter BC.
Road Use Permit – Allows industrial access on Forest Service Roads. This permit specifies the size and weight limits and frequency of industrial vehicles to be used on the Forest Service road and can be applied for and filled out as an attachment to a Notice of Work application.
Special Use Permit – Allows for construction and maintenance of access roads including construction and maintenance of bridges and other drainage structures.
What resources are available for AME members?
Association for Mineral Exploration (AME)
AME tracks issues related to resource roads, and in some cases, may be able to offer further resources and support.
Association for Mineral Exploration
800-889 West Pender St., Vancouver, BC V6C 3B2
604.689.5271 [email protected]
Staff lead: Jonathan Buchanan, Director, Regulatory and Technical Policy, 778.840.0620; [email protected]
Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources
The Mineral Titles Branch of the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources administers the legislation governing the acquisition, exploration and development of mineral, placer mineral, and coal rights in the Province. Mineral Titles Branch staff may be able to help resolve disputes related to access to mineral tenure both on private land and with respect to private roads; 1-866-616-4999; [email protected].
About resource roads in general
Certainty of access is important for exploration companies to finance, plan, permit and carry-out exploration activities, and resource roads provide a cost-effective, on-the-ground means of access to remote mineral exploration activities. In most locations in BC, the only alternative to using resource roads is using an expensive, fuel-intensive helicopter, and for many exploration companies and almost all prospectors, helicopters are cost prohibitive. While road deactivation and rehabilitation has benefits such as reducing wildlife habitat fragmentation, it poses challenges in terms of accessing mineral tenure.
There is no comprehensive inventory of roads in BC; it is estimated that more than 800 000 km of highways and roads exist in BC, with the vast majority being resources roads.
The Forest Practices Board estimated the following in 2015:
- 620 000 km of resource roads
- 480 000 km of these are built for forestry purposes
- 240 000 km of roads built by the forestry industry on cutblocks
- 180 000 km of haul roads built by the forestry industry, of which less than one-quarter is used at any given time (the remaining three-quarters are being maintained as wilderness roads, which may not be suitable for traffic)
- 40 000 km of Forest Service Roads that are managed by the BC Ministry of Forests, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, of which one-third is maintained to provide access to rural residents and recreation sites, and two-thirds as wilderness roads
- 20 000 km of these Forest Service Roads are managed by BC Timber Sales, a program within FLNRORD that manages much of the timber harvest.
- 20 000 km for the oil and gas industry (much of which is built on muskeg and only supports traffic in winter)
- 20 000 km built by, or the responsibility of others, mainly BC Hydro
- 100 000 km of roads with unknown status (approximately 40 per cent of which was likely built by the oil and gas industry, with most of the remainder built for the forestry industry)
- 480 000 km of these are built for forestry purposes
In summary, there is a vast, largely informal network of roads that have been constructed under a multi-faceted regulatory framework. The sporadic use of much of this network creates challenges in terms of access, liability and wildlife management.