Golden Shovel Issue#14 - September 2023 - Nicholas Gust - Stop the Proposed Moratorium on Placer Mining In B.C.
The BC Assembly of First Nations has recently called for an immediate moratorium on the issuance of new placer claims and leases in B.C.
The proposed moratorium on placer mining in British Columbia has far-reaching consequences that affect a wide range of individuals and communities. Placer miners and their families, who have relied on this industry for generations, face the risk of losing their livelihoods. Local businesses that depend on the mining sector for customers and revenue are also at stake. Moreover, the broader community feels the impact, as placer mining has historically contributed to the development of infrastructure and funding for essential public services.
The potential consequences of this moratorium reverberate across the province, affecting not just one group but the entire fabric of our society
What's at stake here is nothing less than the economic vitality of British Columbia. If the proposed moratorium takes effect, it will mean a severe blow to our economy, leading to job losses, business closures, and a decline in economic growth. It risks extinguishing a crucial source of income for countless families and may even threaten the very existence of some local businesses. At the same time, the potential for environmental stewardship and responsible mining practices is at stake. With the right regulations and cooperation, we can ensure that placer mining coexists with conservation efforts, preserving our natural heritage for future generations.
Now, more than ever, we must take immediate action to prevent the proposed moratorium on placer mining from becoming a reality. The economic consequences of the ongoing global challenges, such as the pandemic, have underscored the importance of sustaining local industries and securing jobs for our communities. Additionally, the urgent need to address environmental concerns makes this the right time to act collaboratively, finding solutions that balance economic development with responsible mining practices. Delaying action on this issue could lead to irreversible damage to our economy and environment. Therefore, we must unite and advocate for responsible placer mining practices while preserving the heritage and livelihoods of British Columbia.
To date, 1576 (Now 1874 February 15, 2024) people have signed the petition started by Nichaloas Gust. Please go to this link at Change.org to add your signature.
Golden Shovel Issue#4 - January 2021 - MLA Mike Morris - Is it time to reactivate the Railway to Nowhere and upgrade it to today's standards as far as Watson Lake, Yukon?
The “Dease Lake Extension” railway project, started in 1970 in northwestern British Columbia, was abandomed in 1977 after costs soared five times the original estimate to $360 million (over $1.5 billion today), inciting strong opposition from British Columbia Railway.
By then, the rail grade had reached Dease Lake with only the first 84 km on the southern end operational and, with the end of the project, it became known as the “Railway to Nowhere.”
Is it time perhaps to look at reactivating the Railway to Nowhere project and upgrade the railway to today’s national standards as far as Watson Lake, Yukon?
This would immediately trigger the development and construction of the railway link through the Yukon and into Alaska to join up with the existing Alaska railway system. There is interest in this link at the federal level in both countries as well as the territorial level in the Yukon and Alaska. In 1973, Canada had agreed to share 50% of the costs of the three-section Dease Lake Extension with BC, but BC Rail management rejected the proposal.
The first section of 117 kilometers from Odell, 30 km north of Prince George, to Fort St. James was completed in 1968 at a cost of $18.5 million. The next 130 km from Fort St. James to Leo Creek (south end of Takla Lake) was completed in 1973 after $23million was spent on construction. Construction on the third section, 540 km from Leo Creek to Dease Lake, began in 1970 and, by 1975, the railway was operational to Bulkley House (north end of Takla Lake), a distance of 84 kilometers. Track had been laid as far as Chipmunk Creek, 170 km north of Bulkley House, and the subgrade was completed on the remaining 286 kilometers to Dease Lake. Total capital expended on the last section was $160 million and required an additional $160 million to complete. The final leg of 240 km from Dease Lake to Lower Post (Watson Lake) was surveyed but no construction had commenced. Total dollars spent during construction was $360 million, or, in today’s equivalent, $2.5 billion. The railway is currently used to transport logs to mills in the Prince George area.
A recent study, “Alaska-Canada Rail Link Economic Benefits,” published by the University of Alaska, indicates that, once constructed, BC alone could see an additional 29,000 to 34,000 direct, indirect, and induced full-time employees earning wages and salaries estimated between $2 billion and $2.5 billion, and generating income tax revenues estimated at about $200 million. New rail-tourism opportunities that encourage overnight stays, First Nations culture, and scenic side tours would be enormous. The entire resource sector would experience significant benefits with greater access to minerals, oil and gas and forest resources, more economical shipping options, and better options to energy sources.
Using 2017 railroad engineering and construction cost benchmarks from Compass International, the estimated costs for upgrading the existing line from Odell to Dease Lake would be approximately $500 million and to complete construction from Dease Lake to Watson Lake Yukon would be an additional $300 million
After the new government of Gordon Campbell was elected in 2003 it implemented a task force to investigate restoring the mining industry in British Columbia.
Subsequent actions and reform implemented by that government resulted in a resurgence of mining.
These times brought a potential for prosperity in BC that still has economic benefits to this day.
Despite the successes of those recommendations, mining is again under attack in BC, with more red tape and roadblocks being created to frustrate the Notice of Work process.
To quote the mining task force report of 2003:
“The task force acknowledges”:
1- The part time and occasional nature of much of the provincial placer mining activity.
2- the duplicate and overlapping interests of the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the province regarding the highly sensitive issue of protecting fish habitat.
3- the significant regulatory costs incurred by MEM relative to modest provincial revenues from the sector.
4- The need to ensure “ best practices” among placer operators.”
Furthermore, the task force went on to recommend a number of common-sense changes for the placer mining industry:
a-The Task Force recommends a greater degree of deregulation in the placer mining industry for smaller operators (to be defined as those disturbing less than X hectares of ground and/or less than Y cubic meters of material per year, following consultation), including associated approvals from other agencies.
b-The Task Force recommends defining such smaller operations as not constituting a mine under the Mines Act; therefore, no regulation would be required by MEM for such activities.
c-The Task Force recommends MEM grant placer miners Free Miners’ Certificates conditional upon the payment of a fee and the passing by the applicant of a test demonstrating knowledge of — and a commitment to — best placer mining management practices to be developed by MEM.
d-The Task Force recommends the government eliminate placer designation areas in the province, thereby allowing placer mining to operate in a two-zone land use regime of mineral exploration and mining activities like other mining sectors in B.C.
In addition, the task for also recommended that “Provincial requirements for land use plans, permitting, bonding and reclamation should be consistent and competitive with other mining jurisdictions.” among other recommendations to reduce complexity and confusion in the mining community.
Despite the resurgence of mining in BC after 2003, the complexities of the permitting process has become discriminating in recent years. Reclamation Bonds continue to be confusing and costly. The process almost seems designed to eliminate small scale operations altogether. New guidelines for the prospector such as outlined in update 38 are overwhelmingly prohibitive.
In effect the government is holding small scale placer operations to the same level as large-scale mining projects. There appears to be an effort to regulate the placer miners out of business and out of their Constitutional right to work. It is clear that politics, not science is dictating policy in Victoria.
Our constitutional rights are also our duty to protect from those who would corrupt by punitive regulations in their own ignorance of scientific fact.
Read more about it here
Golden Shovel Issue#1, April 2020 - Hanks Corner-They Choose Employment, Trades And Skills Over Poverty
Hank Siegel - There it is protesters, the wet’suwet’en people are looking to take care of there own so stop the protests. Poverty for the wet’suwet’en is no more. They choose Employment Trades and Skills over poverty... They took control of their destiny, their interests and are moving forward with the pipeline.
Response to Hanks Post - Hank they are not Protesters. They are land defenders.
Hank -you know I’m not trying to be rude, sorry…but unless you can figure out a better way than working to get your community out of poverty, to me they are protestors. I’ve heard the terms Land Keepers and Water Protectors. Now I am hearing Land Defenders. Go and tell the rest of Canada they are Land Defenders because Canadians see them as Country Disturbers! Watch the video I posted. Not once did they ask for anybody to protest under wet’suwet’en name.
I fund myself to attend these functions so I have the right to my opinion. Just like these so-called Land Defenders who haven’t really stated what they defend. Is it Idle No More, Missing and Murdered Woman and Men, or Reconciliation?
So, what is the University of Winnipeg marching around portage and main for because I’m more confused on that. Especially when the wet’suwet’en have said 87% of them are for the pipeline.
I’m definitely not into social programs being the solution for starving communities. The only ones that prosper from that life are Chief and Council. I’ll take the work and if it means my kids eat one more day, I’m good with that.
Response to Hanks Post - How do a few thousand protesters speak for a whole population? How many treaty people are there?
Hank - I guess that’s the point, they are not treaty or fall under the Indian act. I think they are a distinct society much like Quebec. They have been dealing with coastal gas and LNG for the last four years. The conferences I have attended they simply stated they didn’t ask for these protesters help. The blockade they put up was because they were being thrown out of their territory’s trap lines, medicine picking traditional areas and so on. They were negotiating on jobs and trades and said no to the one time pay out.
Their hereditary Chief Government is much like the Royal family of the UK. They inherited it and they believe elected Chief and Council only represent the inter structure of the reserve and not the territory. The local band here in Mcleod lake just received money to construct a major refiner plant where their members will receive jobs, trades and Skills.
Trades such as millwrights, pipe fitters, Electrician’s and so on training and education will be given on construction of this plant. That’s self sustainable economic growth. I think this will set precedents across Canada for all First Nations
Are you frustrated by Mine Act Policy, the time it takes to obtain a work permit or the multitude of other steps a mines inspector demands? Are you also frustrated by the inaccurate mapping software on the MTO site? The Ministry and the policies created from numerous regulations and policy set out by the Minister and agents is a disappointment. The length of time to issue a work permit has become far too long and complex. The arduous process from filing a Notice Of Work (NOW) to receiving a Permit takes several months and is vulnerable to frustration by other parties. The delays incurred creates significant loss of earnings for the placer miner
The First Nations and environmentalists position on placer mining has produced several documents including “BC Placer Mining High Environmental Impact VS Low Economic Return”. The similarities of this document to update 38 are startling. The Government appears to want “no” environmental impact that “upsets” the aforementioned parties or that have low financial reward for the Government. The policies in Update 38 mirror the demands of the Fair Mining Collaborative. www.fairmining.ca So the questions now are; Can we fight this? How do we fight this? When can we fight this? Who do we fight?
It is clear the government only wants large scale mining operations that fund the government through taxes and other fees. Placer mining is very low on the priority scale of the government. The evidence of this is the regulations and the difficulty in obtaining a work permit in a timely manner. The minister also knows placer miners generally do not have large financial resources to fight back. Placer miners are an easy target for them to regulate, manipulate and threaten with “charges”. The ministry and its agents have absolute control over the rules and policy. The Minister through his agents, create rules or policy as they go along. This is not a fair and/or just system. The system is slow to work, fast to penalize or threaten to prosecute a miner for any infraction. There is no table or reference to any silt guidelines that are an acceptable amount of discharge for placer miners. The Ministry has a zero-discharge policy. However, there are acceptable effluent discharge limits for the pulp and paper industry. Pulp and paper effluent is toxic and can cause harm to all life forms in a river system.
The Ministry of mines falsely states that “silt” is effluent. Silt fails to meet the definition of effluent as it has not been altered by any means. Silt contains only natural chemicals produced by natural processes. We are guaranteed equal benefit and protection in the law. Placer miners are entitled to “equal benefit and protection” in law. Does the fact there is no allowable silt discharge tables for placer mining, violate our rights in the Charter? Few people read Canadian laws. However, it is the means by which we can fight the Ministry of Energy Mines. Being cooperative and bending to every requirement the government demands, does not change or alter the way they treat placer miners.
The Constitution Act (Charter of Rights and Freedoms) describes what we are entitled to as Canadian citizens. This law describes what is and what are our “rights”. It further Guarantees these rights to each of us without exception. The Charter at section 32 directs all governments to obey these basic rights and freedoms. Further the federal Human Rights Act protects your right to earn a living. (Section 6). If a person’s rights were violated by anyone or the government, you do have a recourse through the Human Rights Tribunal. If the government creates a policy or procedure or a regulation that impedes your ability to earn a living you may have a human rights complaint. The Minister can be taken before the Human Rights Tribunal. If the tribunal finds discrimination has occurred, the Tribunal can and will order the government to cease a discriminatory act or action. It can also levy costs and order the Government to accommodate. All these things can be done IF the Tribunal finds that your rights have been violated.
A good example of how the Human rights law can help Frustration With Mines Act Policy And Inspector Demands is a case in point. Mr. Hall (a hunter) filed a complaint with the tribunal. The tribunal found the Minister of Environment violated his rights. The tribunal ordered them to accommodate Mr. Halls needs as a disabled hunter. The restrictions applied to Mr. Halls “permit” were too restrictive, the Tribunal found that Mr. Halls rights were further violated by overly restrictive conditions of his Permit. The Tribunal ordered the Minister to accommodate most of Mr. Hall’s needs. I am disabled and I have one of these permits. The permit exempts me from criminal and Wildlife Act offences.
My permit is a specifically tailored defense to specific charges. A Mines Act work permit, is also a specifically tailored defense to a charge. The permit cannot be unreasonably withheld. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled on this (Supreme Court Canada Decision; Regina VS Morgentaler.) The Work Permit offered in the Mines Act, cannot be made so difficult to obtain, that the law is held in disrepute. You have a guaranteed right to seek employment and earn a living anywhere in Canada. If the Ministry frustrates the NOW and denies or withholds a permit for any undue reason. There may be grounds there for a complaint. The Ministry may be violating the miners right to earn a living, because their demands are overly restrictive.
I do recommend reading the Charter of Rights, the federal Human Rights Act and learn what you are entitled to. We will not win the fight by direct communication with the Ministry. Their policies preclude a fair interaction. Miners complaints are falling on deaf ears. The last question; Can we miners unite, form an alliance fund a legal action fund to pursue a human rights complaint against the Minister responsible?
A human rights complaint can be filed and have all Free Miners as the complainant. What we would need from interested miners is your story regarding the issues of getting a Work Permit. This is evidence backed by documents, emails, letters etc that is needed to take to a lawyer for his opinion on whether or not there is a violation of your rights. All the information would be under the control of the Association. Your feedback would be appreciated. - John Olsen