The BC government has been undertaking early engagement with a number of groups including AME around possible changes to the Mineral Tenure Act. This engagement is to understand various perspectives and concerns with the Act and to support the Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources’ mandate letter to forward the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and to review policies, programs and legislation to determine how to bring the principles of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into action in British Columbia.
In some media articles and releases by environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) the Mineral Tenure Act has been referred to as consisting of “antiquated colonial rules” that reflect a “19th century gold-rush-era approach”. In fact, BC’s mineral tenure system is modern, fair, competitive, and transparent and is considered a model to follow by jurisdictions around the world.
As AME members know, a mineral claim is the foundation upon which the entire mineral exploration and mining industry is based. Acquiring mineral claims can be highly competitive and is often based on a geologist’s or prospector’s concept or idea – a form of intellectual property. A mineral explorer must be able to stake a claim in an open and transparent system and have it conferred immediately. Otherwise all competitive advantage is lost, and intellectual property is compromised. This is fundamental to mineral tenure systems in all provinces and territories in Canada and in most jurisdictions around the world.
The BC Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources (MEMPR) has met with industry, including AME, and with Indigenous groups and others over the past year. The most important issue for AME that has been discussed is that mineral claims could be subjected to some form of consultation with Indigenous groups before they are conferred and that the minister may have discretion in the issuance of mineral leases and other rights within the Act. The combination of the two would create considerable uncertainty in the security of mineral titles and would likely have a significant impact on mineral exploration in BC.
Given the potential significance of these changes, AME, MABC, and Indigenous groups asked MEMPR to slow down the discussions to allow for more time for everyone to assess the impacts and look at alternatives. In addition, since the BC government is planning to release UNDRIP legislation in the fall of 2019, MEMPR decided to defer further discussions about the Mineral Tenure Act until after UNDRIP legislation has passed.
What AME is doing
AME has established a mineral tenure committee that is working with MABC and has been engaged in discussions with MEMPR since the early spring of 2019. This committee contains members from across the province including prospectors, junior and senior company geologists, legal and policy experts, and AME Board members. The committee has been a strong advocate for the rights of mineral explorers and has clearly articulated the challenges and potential impacts of some of the discussion points. We are currently working with MABC to undertake a competitiveness forum that will help the province to better understand the impact of potential changes to financing, property acquisition, interest in BC by national and international exploration and mining companies and to BC’s reputation as a destination for mineral exploration – something the province, AME and industry have been working hard to improve.
AME has prepared a list of key points about BC’s mineral tenure system including aspects such as acquiring claims, consultation with Indigenous groups, comparison with other tenures in BC and comparison with national and international standards. The key points can be found in this AME Briefing.