Feds pledge to streamline resource applications

Local politicians and mining spokeperson see value in streamlining environmental assessments

Recent changes for resource development in Canada included in the 2012 federal budget will maintain a “strong integrity” in the environmental assessment process, says Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod.

“It’s just to get rid of a lot of unnecessary duplication that’s been happening over the years and put some reasonable timeframes around these different projects.”

In his budget speech, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty committed to streamline the review process for resource projects under a principle of “one project, one review, completed in a clearly defined time period.”

McLeod says these changes to the review process have been “needed for a long, long time. Whether the answer is a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’, I think we need to be moving these things forward in a much more seamless way.”

Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett says she agrees “it’s about time” for the federal and provincial project approval policies for natural resource applications to amalgamate.

“It will encourage people to [invest] when you see the lengthy process we go through now. When we’ve got two processes, I think we’re better with one good, strong, solid process.”

The federal government review includes only environmental aspects, she notes, while the process in British Columbia includes social, economic and environmental reviews.

All three of these elements should be included in whatever the “new envelope” is going to look like, Barnett explains, and bring the two different environmental assessments together as one.

She notes gold prices may be up at one point but significantly lower a year or two down the road, so a long, drawn-out approval process can miss a window of mining opportunity.

A review panel should include people from both the province and the nation, she says, adding the “most important thing” will be a standardized terms of reference for both governments.

“The Department of Fisheries and Oceans [Canada] is one of the strictest you’ll ever have, so it’s important for those [aspects], too, to have good, strong terms of reference.”

Brian Battison, Taskeo Mines Ltd. corporate affairs vice-president, says the federal government is trying to develop opportunity, wealth and job creation for the country.

“That’s why they are making these changes; they are changes that are needed, in my view.”

The Prosperity Mines project has been through two environmental assessments, he notes.

“The provincial environmental assessment approved the project, and the province has responsibility for mine development … granted by the Constitution.”

The province decided it was “justified in the circumstance” because of the Taskeo’s plan to develop a new lake, and “the benefit it would provide” to B.C., Battison explains, but the Canadian review panel declined to agree with this as grounds for approval.

“The federal government, using the same information, the same terms of reference, came to the same conclusion as the province, and the same significant adverse conclusion as the province, as the loss of Fish Lake.

“The federal government did not decide to grant us the authorizations to proceed [after] two environmental assessments, now we’re in a third.”