Karina Briño, President and CEO, Mining Association of British Columbia

The newest president and CEO of the Mining Association of B.C. talks about women in the mining industry and the path that led her to the private sector.

Karina Briño, Mining Association of British Columbia | BCBusiness

The newest president and CEO of the Mining Association of B.C. talks about women in the mining industry and the path that led her to the private sector.

Talk about taking a giant leap. In the space of one month last 
summer, Karina Briño jumped from assistant deputy minister 
in the Ministry of Energy and Mines to the helm of the Mining 
Association of B.C., the advocacy voice for British Columbia’s 
mining industry. The 47-year-old Chilean-born Briño brings to the new job more than 15 years of experience in government, where 
she started as a social worker and quickly rose through the 
bureaucracy as a policy and program design expert.

How did you begin your working career?

After finishing university with a B.A. in psychology and Spanish literature, I spent some time in South America, and when I came back, I had my son. After parental leave, I decided it was time to get on a long-term career path. I made the jump to government, and I started my career as a field social worker with the Ministry of Social Services. 

How did you start working on mining in government?

In 2004 the Ministry of Energy and Mines was developing its B.C. Mining Plan, a strategy to enhance awareness about mining and mineral development in the province. So I came on to help develop those strategies and actions and I was invited to stay to help implement them – which included training programs in northwest aboriginal communities targeting youth at risk, to increase their participation in the mining sector. 

So your social services background fed directly into your mining work with government?

Absolutely. That’s what I had been doing in the past, developing programs and services, and at the same time helping the industry have a better sense of how it could support the community where it was operating. In government I became a bit of a facilitator and translator between the two worlds. 

What drew you to the private sector and the job at the mining association?

The interest in coming to the industry side was certainly from a learning perspective for myself, but also because of my strong commitment to social responsibility and social licence – things that the industry has sometimes not been as up front about as it could be in terms of delivering those messages. I think we have an opportunity to do something about that.

Another reason was the Towards Sustainable Mining Initiative. The mining industry in B.C. is adopting a very different way of doing business. In the future, association members will need to adopt the principles and reporting and accountabilities of TSM as a management system. For an industry of this nature to commit to reporting in public on how they run their operations, and subjecting themselves to an audit process that will hold them accountable for what they are doing or not doing, is a very courageous move.

Do any issues stand out to you as an immediate priority for action?

We are certainly interested in seeing enhancements to the project approval process, including the length of time it takes to get a decision. What we’re asking for are more effective and efficient decisions. And when we talk about a harmonized federal-provincial environmental assessment process, we’re talking about eliminating duplication.

Premier Christy Clark, in her recent job creation plan, predicted we’ll see eight new mines and nine expanded existing mines by 2015. Is this realistic in your opinion? 

I don’t know how they came up with those numbers, but if you look at all the projects on the government’s environmental assessment website, it isn’t unrealistic to think that many of them could get to the finish line. But it will depend on the government’s ability to actually process those approvals in a way that is going to allow for construction and development by 2015. 

You were a senior-level government bureaucrat working in mining, and now you’ve moved to a job that involves lobbying government on behalf of private-sector companies. How do you counter the optics that there’s a conflict?

I stress that there are lobbying restrictions imposed on me because of the position I held in the past. But the mining association is not restricted from that type of work. The mining association is here to represent the interests of its members and will do what it needs to do in communicating those interests and making sure there is clarity about what we are trying to do with all levels 
of government.

What are you restricted from doing?

There are certain things I can’t do for 12 months after leaving government. One of them is disclose any confidential information that I may have had. I also cannot lobby or represent the industry on files I may have been involved with in the past. 

Finally, is there any advice you would offer to women aspiring to work in the B.C. mining industry?

If I can get a message out, it’s that this industry is very open and interested in diversification and bringing different skill sets and cultural backgrounds that are not historically associated with the mining industry. The fact that I’m here is not because I’m a woman, but the mining association board saw the skills and experience I can bring to the industry and association. I’m a very good example of how we’re not all engineers and geologists. Here I am with a very different background and experience, leading an organization that is the predominant voice for the B.C. mining industry.