Resource Industries Urge Fast Approvals

resources | BCBusiness
Site of Taseko Mines’ proposed Prosperity Mine

A panel of business and government leaders urge stakeholders to put aside posturing and get down to the hard work of negotiating to move resource development forward

“It’s not if we need mining and resource development. It’s how.” This is how Williams Lake Mayor Kerry Cook frames the key question facing her town of 11,000 in B.C’s Central Interior. The town, ranked in recent years among the worst places to live in Canada by Moneysense magazine, is mulling the promise and peril of Taseko Mines Ltd.’s proposed $1-billion open-pit mine nearby.
For panellists speaking at the Business Council of B.C.’s inaugural B.C. Business Summit Wednesday at the Vancouver Convention Centre, this is also the question facing the province as a whole as the world knocks on its door seeking its minerals and energy. The summit at the Vancouver Convention Centre featured the leaders of some of B.C.’s biggest resource companies and minsters from the provincial and federal government.
The province has ambitious plans to build a giant new industry exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) overseas while simultaneously expanding markets for mining and forestry. But those ambitions face tough environmental challenges and opposition from communities skeptical about local payoffs. Speakers at a summit panel on sustainable natural resource development were unanimous about the need to move past those hurdles quickly.
“We need to move fast and capture the market opportunity,” said Pacific Oil and Gas president Ratnesh Bedi, whose company is proposing an LNG project near Squamish. B.C. has ample demand for its resources, but ample competitors too, he said.
The way forward, panellists emphasized, was through building relationships and trust. “That’s the answer: the industry, the regulators, the political leadership, the stakeholders, all have to sit down together and work out the cost competitive solution,” Bedi said.
“I truly believe in the power of conversations and engagement,” said Karina Bariño, president and CEO of the Mining Association of B.C.  “Engagement is not just a nice thing to do. It’s a way of doing business. It’s a way of doing business that has to be part of the plan.”
Consultation can be a difficult, divisive process, but it needs to be done right, Cook said. “Industry really needs to find the people who are committed to building those relationships. It’s not just checking a list.”
Cook is all too aware of what’s at stake. Taseko says its proposed New Prosperity Mine near her town will provide 550 direct jobs and add $340 million annually to the GDP. But a federal environmental report concluded in late October that the mine proposal poses “significant adverse environmental effects.” Taseko had an earlier proposal rejected by the federal government in 2011, forcing the mining firm to resubmit after addressing environmental concerns.
The fate of the latest proposal ultimately rests in federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq’s hands, but aboriginal groups promise a bitter fight if she ignores the report. This is not the kind of engagement that industry leaders are seekng.