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Does B.C. use regulatory uncertainty as a political ploy? Former Green leader cites Pacific Booker

by Greg Klein | June 25, 2020

Regulatory limbo might have been deliberately imposed on a British Columbia mining proponent for political reasons. That’s a concern raised by MLA Andrew Weaver as he once again questioned the provincial government’s handling of Pacific Booker Minerals’ (TSXV:BKM) proposed Morrison mine.

Does B.C. use regulatory uncertainty as a political ploy? Former Green leader cites Pacific Booker

Independent MLA Andrew Weaver

New environmental regulations introduced in 2018 don’t apply to the project, the New Democrat government states. But the former rules have been applied without clarity, Weaver argued. Addressing the legislature on June 24 the former Green leader, now an independent MLA, charged the government with stalling the project’s environmental assessment by confusing the process.

Acknowledging there’s “no smoking gun,” Weaver’s blog cited “suspicious circumstantial evidence” that the former BC Liberal government rejected the mine to gain native support for LNG projects. That government turned down the copper-gold-molybdenum proposal in 2012 although the province’s Environmental Assessment Office found that, with successful mitigation measures, the mine is “not likely to have significant adverse effects.”

Weaver’s post continued, “This is the same government that went to Ottawa in 2014 to lobby the federal government to approve [Taseko Mines’ (TSX:TKO) New Prosperity proposal], a project that had received two negative assessments by federal review panels.”

At the time mines minister Bill Bennett refused to explain the apparent contradiction.

Pacific Booker lawyered up in 2012, resulting in a 2013 B.C. Supreme Court decision ordering the province to reconsider Morrison. As Weaver noted, “Justice [Kenneth] Affleck would describe the environmental assessment process as a ‘sham’ and accuse the province of repeatedly ‘moving the goalposts’ during the assessment process.”

But in 2015 the Liberals ordered the project to undergo further assessment. Weaver’s blog pointed out the Lake Babine Nation’s uncertain support for LNG projects including the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission line. Referring to the pipeline in 2016, Weaver wrote, “Chief Wilf Adam was quoted in Business in Vancouver as saying: ‘If they overturn or change their decision in favour of PBM to start this mine, then all gloves are off—and any agreement we made with the province.”

For Pacific Booker, this order has been tantamount to a rejection of its project without the ministry formally saying no.—MLA Andrew Weaver

The NDP narrowly won the 2017 election, governing with the support of three Green MLAs. A new Environmental Assessment Act passed in 2018, but doesn’t apply to Morrison. The Liberal government’s section 17 order imposed in 2015 remains in force. But “Pacific Booker has been unable to clarify the precise nature of what is actually required in the section 17 order,” Weaver told the legislature. “For Pacific Booker, this order has been tantamount to a rejection of its project without the ministry formally saying no.”

Weaver asked environment minister George Heyman to amend and clarify the 2015 requirements. Weaver added that it’s impossible for the company to move through the regulatory process “when that process has not been defined.”

Heyman denied Weaver’s charges, saying the requirements have been specific and his staff “are working to help answer any questions that the proponent has with respect to the information required.”

Weaver quit the Greens in January after announcing his intention to leave politics for family reasons. A mathematician, climate scientist and University of Victoria professor who shared in a 2007 Nobel Prize, he accused his former party colleagues last month of preferring re-election to upholding Green principles.

Last March Taranis Resources TSXV:TRO lambasted B.C.’s current environmental review process, saying the Thor polymetallic project was stalled as the company dealt with “28 technical reviewers from four sectors” over a 17-month period.

Taranis directors argued that “it is easy to conclude that the current B.C. government is intent on eliminating the mining industry in the province by instituting a barrage of vague and ever-changing requirements for permitting and operation, with a complement of inexperienced and unqualified civil servants in positions of authority whose obvious intention is nothing less than making sure nothing gets done.”

July 2, 2020, update: Taranis Resources gets B.C. Ombudsperson intervention in regulatory dispute; B.C. plans Mines Act revisions.

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