Land claims greatest deterrent to investment

Mining is going to dry up in BC if the province doesn't get serious about settle land claims with First Nations.

by Ravina Bains and Taylor Jackson

The Fraser Institute

VANCOUVER, BC/ Troy Media/ – More than 10,700 British Columbians were employed in the mining sector in 2013 with an average salary and benefits totalling $114,600. That same year, the mining industry contributed $511 million in revenues to the B.C. government.

In spite of that, the industry faces an uncertain future. Depreciated commodity prices, a tough financing market for juniors, and a slowdown in global demand will make it difficult to attract mining investment in the near-term.

This month the B.C. government announced that it will establish a Major Mines Permitting Office to streamline the permitting process for the industry. But a lengthy permitting process is not the biggest policy issue hampering mining investment in the province. That distinction belongs to disputed land claims – the greatest deterrent to investment in B.C.

According to the Fraser Institute’s Annual Mining Survey, in terms of pure mineral potential B.C. ranks in the top five most attractive jurisdictions in the world. However, when government policy (or lack thereof) is added to the equation, B.C. starts to lag behind similar jurisdictions.

Why? Disputed land claims. In 2013, 70 per cent of survey respondents stated that disputed land claims were a deterrent to mining investment. And almost a third of respondents said that uncertainty on this issue was either a strong deterrent to investment or a reason to simply not invest.

Conversely, less than 50 per cent of respondents considered regulatory duplication and inconsistencies to be a deterrent to investment.

Based on survey results, the B.C. government should focus, first and foremost, on providing land certainty by addressing the nearly 50 land claim negotiations in B.C., which claim over 100 per cent of the province’s land. Furthermore, in light of the Supreme Court of Canada’s Tsilhqot’in decision, unless there is more certainty around B.C. lands streamlining the permit process could become irrelevant as mining companies decide not to apply in the first place.

The court’s decision states that once aboriginal title has been recognized, project development requires the consent of the First Nation that holds title to the land. If a mining permit is approved on land that later becomes aboriginal title land, and the project is not supported by the First Nation holding title, then the government “may be required to cancel the project . . . if continuation of the project would be unjustifiably infringing.”

In fact, since the release of the Tsilhqot’in decision, some B.C. First Nations have already attempted to halt projects under the banner of aboriginal title. For example, the Neskonlith First Nation issued an eviction notice to proponents of the proposed Ruddock Creek mine in Northern B.C., claiming that the mine is located on aboriginal title land. The Gitxsan First Nations served eviction notices to logging companies, sport fishermen and CN Rail to vacate their traditional territory along the Skeena River, while citing the Tsilhqot’in judgment.With this level of uncertainty in B.C., it’s not surprising that more than 70 per cent of investors are thinking twice before investing in B.C.’s mining sector.

With more than 100 per cent of the province under claim, if the government is serious about stimulating investor confidence in the mining sector they need to address the land certainty question. One day, unless more certainty is provided, there may be no one for the new Major Mines Permitting Office to issue permits to. And with an industry that provides $511 million in revenue to the B.C. government, more than 10,700 high-paying jobs for British Columbians, and the most private-sector jobs for aboriginal people, it would be a mistake to let the mining industry falter.

Ravina Bains is the Associate Director of the Centre for Aboriginal Policy Studies and Taylor Jackson is a policy analyst in the Center for Natural Resources at the Fraser Institute. www.troymedia.com

Just Posted

Ashcroft hospital emergency closed sign, 2016. Photo credit: Barbara Roden
Ashcroft Hospital emergency department closed this weekend

Closure due to unexpected limited physician availabiliy, says Interior Health

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Heidi Roy of the Cariboo Jade Shop in Cache Creek with the 3,000 jade boulder, which is now on secure display inside the shop. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Massive jade boulder returns to Cache Creek store six months after daring heist

The 3,000-pound boulder was stolen on Dec. 19, 2020 and found abandoned in the bush a week later

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Child sex crimes charges against Interior’s top doc won’t impact pandemic response: Dix

Dr. Albert de Villiers is charged with sexual assault and sexual interference

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read