(Updated October 9, 2019)
This spring, the BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development invited Indigenous Nations, communities, industry stakeholders and the public to offer their perspectives on the sustainable management of BC’s forest and range resources including the planning, use, maintenance and deactivation of 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. Certainty of access is important for exploration companies to finance, plan, permit and carry-out exploration activities. In most locations in BC, the only alternative to using resource roads is using an expensive, fuel-intensive helicopter. For many exploration companies and almost all prospectors, helicopters are cost-prohibitive. Resource roads provide a cost-effective, on-the-ground means of access to remote mineral exploration activities. Early-stage mineral exploration require a maximum search area to explore for BC’s hidden mineral resources which is enhanced by road access allowing exploration to occur during travel time and along road-cuts in a cost-effective manner.
Often, however, mineral tenure holders are either not consulted on road access changes or are only consulted when deactivation is imminent. We recognize that road deactivation may benefit preservation of ecological values and reduce user liability. However, given the time required to discover and assess hidden mineral resources, certainty regarding road access is fundamental to mineral exploration.
Partial information on resource roads is available through the Explore by Location function of Natural Resource Online Services and can be viewed on platforms such as the BC Economic Atlas (Forestry layer > Forest Tenure Section lines). An overview of current road closures – which varies by region – is available through the Resource Road Safety Information portal. However, AME advocates for fuller transparency regarding road status to mineral tenure holders and other users.
What AME is doing
On July 12, AME submitted its response to Minister Doug Donaldson. AME’s submission outlines the need for ensuring continued access to mineral tenures and areas of BC with high mineral potential.
In particular, AME urges that the province provide early notice to users when deactivation is contemplated and provide opportunities for users to collaborate and suggest alternatives to full deactivation where practical.
AME also supports standardized road use rules to maximize safety as well as a revised approach to road maintenance disputes that allows for the transfer of liability between users. We note that many users have limited resources for maintaining roads and welcome an approach that provides time and a structure for multiple parties (e.g. First Nations, mineral tenure holders, recreational users) to collaborate on approaches to road maintenance that is managed by the province.