Saturday 24th October 2020

Resource Clips


Posts tagged ‘Pacific Booker Minerals Inc (BKM)’

B.C. MLA Andrew Weaver challenges the provincial environmental review process applied to this company

August 26th, 2020

…Read more

A resource-less approach

August 21st, 2020

Attacks persist, but Canada has nothing to replace the economy it denigrates

by Greg Klein | August 21, 2020

“Very disheartened,” the Mining Association of Canada expressed more than usual frustration as another resource project faced another unexpected setback. This one caused special pain since it resulted from Bill C-69, which the industry group had controversially supported. MAC did so thinking the bill would fix problems associated with the federal environmental act of 2012. But the association had also supported Ottawa back then, before becoming disillusioned with the legislation’s implementation. Could there be a pattern here?

MAC expressed its most recent discouragement on August 20 after federal environment minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced Teck Resources’ (TSX:TECK.A/TSX:TECK.B) Castle coal proposal would face a federal review under the Impact Assessment Act in addition to the provincial review already underway.

Attacks persist, but Canada has nothing to replace the economy it denigrates

Teck’s Fording River operation: Does a supposedly green economy
have no room for steel-making coal? (Photo: Teck Resources)

As a new source of metallurgical coal just south of Teck’s Fording River mine in southeastern British Columbia, Castle would add “several decades” of life to the currently depleting operation, the company maintains. Teck hoped to begin Castle development in 2023 and production in 2026, to replace the existing operation early next decade.

Yet the size of the proposal calls for an environmental review at the provincial level only, Teck and MAC say, arguing that federal IAA intervention isn’t necessary.

“It seems clear that this decision was political in nature as there are many projects across the country with equal or more significant impacts that are not subject to the IAA,” MAC president/CEO Pierre Gratton asserted. “This is a case of the government succumbing to pressure from political interest groups while also placating the U.S. government’s EPA and the state of Montana.”

Yet Canada’s new regimen was supposed to end much of the federal-provincial review duplication, which helped explain MAC’s support for C-69 last year even after Parliament rejected most of the Senate’s proposed amendments. Over objections from the oilpatch and some uranium companies, MAC declared the new legislation an improvement over the former Tory government’s 2012 Environmental Assessment Act.

MAC had supported the 2012 transformation too. But later the group decided it did not “live up to its promise,” Gratton told CBC last year.

In making this decision, the federal government is sending a clear message that instead of providing support for resource projects and jobs in a time of unprecedented economic crisis, it will choose to do the opposite. —The Mining Association
of Canada

On August 20 he stated MAC’s support for the new IAA had been “contingent on it being implemented well. It is unfortunate that the past month has now given our industry reason to question whether it will be implemented in a fair and efficient manner.”

Weeks earlier, MAC noted, Ottawa released its new Strategic Assessment on Climate Change, “which included numerous requirements that are unworkable for the mining sector and is calling into question whether the act will be well and fairly implemented.”

Implementation aside, the IAA is hardly free of inherent faults. A February 2019 commentary by Grant Bishop and Grant Sprague of the C.D. Howe Institute warned that C-69 threatened projects by “congesting the assessment process with wider public policy concerns and exacerbating the political uncertainty facing proponents with a highly subjective ‘public interest’ standard.” That allowed for “increasing subjectivity and politicization in project approvals,” the authors contended.

Additionally, they said the new bill failed to clarify the duty to consult natives.

C-69 passed at the same time as Bill C-48, aka the “tanker moratorium,” and shortly after a ban on offshore Arctic drilling.

Problems are obvious at the provincial level too. One early sign of a growing trend was B.C.’s 2012 rejection of Pacific Booker Minerals’ (TSXV:BKM) Morrison copper-gold-molybdenum proposal despite an environmental assessment that found the project was “not likely to have significant adverse effects.” In the legislature last spring MLA Andrew Weaver, B.C.’s former Green leader, suggested the previous BC Liberal government rejected Morrison as a trade-off to gain native support for a gas transmission line to the proposed Pacific Northwest LNG plant.

The BC Liberal government did, however, support Taseko Mines’ (TSX:TKO) New Prosperity proposal. Ottawa scrapped that one, partly by expanding its environmental mandate to include spiritual and cultural issues.

B.C.’s current NDP government, meanwhile, has come under fire from Taranis Resources TSXV:TRO for a process that it said involved 28 government reviewers, “multiple catastrophic deficiencies and concerns” and “moving goalposts.” These are, of course, just a few examples of ongoing frustration that characterizes resource and infrastructure development across Canada.

Most vexing is the duty to consult. Does that create a veto? Not according to Gratton, who has previously insisted: “We’re not in a world of veto. We’re in a world of deep and meaningful engagement.”

But that deep and meaningful stuff can work in reverse too. When the Nunavut Impact Review Board recommended federal rejection of an expansion proposal for Baffinland Iron Mines’ Mary River operation in 2018, the Qikiqtani Inuit Association convinced Ottawa to approve the company’s request.

The Wet’suwet’en pipeline protests, moreover, appear to show some natives trying to veto others. The cause was taken up by Canada’s wider protest culture following its mass adulation for a Swedish teenager in demonstrations that at least hinted at religious fervour. The anti-pipeline movement quickly morphed into Shut Down Canada, an effort that showed signs of succeeding until quelled by the pandemic. Yet widespread demonstrating resumed with an American issue imported to this country awkwardly but with immediate and uniform support from Canadian media, political and business elites.

Will that support follow when protesters channel their emotions en masse back to environmental issues? Certainly much of the political and media establishment already grant credibility to seriously disruptive tactics that, for example, block people’s freedom of movement.

It’s in this milieu that the prime minister is speculated to be preparing an unprecedented social spending program that would dwarf previous deficit budgets.

Gold bugs might believe the outcome will vindicate their predictions for fiat currency. They might also feel vindicated by this week’s investment of US$560 million in Barrick Gold TSX:ABX by Berkshire Hathaway, whose legendary CEO Warren Buffett was previously known to disparage gold.

One of the world’s largest gold producers and nominally a Canadian company, Barrick has just one mine and no exploration or development projects in this country. For its part, Berkshire Hathaway expressed its opinion of Canada in early March when the company cancelled its planned $4-billion investment in GNL Québec. A spokesperson for the LNG proponent cited investor nervousness about the “current Canadian political context” demonstrated by rail blockades.

If Canada’s abandoning its resource economy, the replacement remains uncertain. That might be a situation better understood by investors than policy-makers, but it carries implications much wider than stock prices.

Taranis Resources gets B.C. Ombudsperson intervention in regulatory dispute; B.C. plans Mines Act revisions

July 2nd, 2020

by Greg Klein | July 2, 2020

In what might be a unique approach to regulatory uncertainty, a would-be British Columbia miner says it has “helped set the trend towards more transparent, accessible and fair proceedings for bulk-sampling projects.” Exasperated by its dealings with the provincial mines ministry, Taranis Resources TSXV:TRO went to the province’s Ombudsperson. As a result, the company and the ministry have agreed to procedures and a timeline for the company’s permitting application.

Taranis Resources gets B.C. Ombudsperson intervention in regulatory dispute; B.C. plans Mines Act revisions

Taranis has sunk about 250 holes at Thor
since acquiring the Kootenay property in 2006.
(Photo: Taranis Resources)

Taranis proposes to conduct a 10,000-tonne sample as part of the feasibility studies for the Thor project in southeastern B.C. The 3,172-hectare property hosts five historic mines and a potential silver-gold-lead-zinc-copper open pit.

Last March the company castigated B.C.’s Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, charging that a supposedly 60-day review had dragged on since September 2019, involving 28 government reviewers, “multiple catastrophic deficiencies and concerns,” and “moving goalposts.”

But on July 2 CEO John Gardiner thanked the ministry and the Ombudsperson “for formulating a number of positive measures that pertain not only to Taranis, but to B.C.’s exploration and mining sector as a whole.”

The resolution calls for draft engineering drawings of a water management plan and tailings storage facility to be completed with ministry collaboration within three to four weeks before being sent to the province’s Mine Development Review Committee for comments.

“Taranis expects the permit recommendation to be sent from EMPR to the statutory decision maker this year,” the company stated. “EMPR will try to complete this work by August 31, 2020, in order to mitigate further delay.”

We wish to thank the Ombudsperson’s office and EMPR … for formulating a number of positive measures that pertain not only to Taranis, but to B.C.’s exploration and mining sector as a whole.—John Gardiner,
Taranis Resources CEO

Taranis also stated that the ministry committed to completing and posting online a draft policy and information bulletin entitled Permitting Custom and Pilot Mill Operations, and a fact sheet for bulk sampling.

The province has been blamed for “moving the goalposts” on another mining proposal, and in this case the criticism came from a Supreme Court judge. But although the court ordered the government in 2013 to reconsider Pacific Booker Minerals’ (TSXV:BKM) application to build the Morrison copper-gold-molybdenum mine, the company still faces regulatory uncertainty. Late last month independent MLA and former Green leader Andrew Weaver accused the government of imposing conditions too vague for compliance. “For Pacific Booker, this order has been tantamount to a rejection of its project without the ministry formally saying no,” he charged.

Also last month B.C.’s New Democrat government announced proposed updates to the province’s Mines Act. Among the changes would be the separation of health and safety enforcement from responsibility for permitting decisions.

A newly created chief auditor’s staff would inspect mines and issue orders to rectify dangers to people, property or the environment.

Mine inspectors would gain stronger powers to stop work until remedial environmental protection takes place, and broader authority to conduct inspections. Inspections could include “indigenous accompaniment.”

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

June 25th, 2020

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.

B.C. MLA and former Green leader Andrew Weaver questions the province’s rejection of Pacific Booker Minerals’ proposed mine

April 20th, 2020

…Read more

Taranis Resources alleges “catastrophic deficiencies and concerns” with B.C. mines ministry

March 16th, 2020

by Greg Klein | March 16, 2020

Stating it’s “in a unique position to experience every aspect of the permitting process in B.C.,” an explorer levelled strong complaints about how a bulk sampling application has been handled. Taranis Resources TSXV:TRO, operator of the Thor polymetallic project in southeastern British Columbia, made the charges in a March 16 news release following a conference call with ministry officials.

Taranis Resources alleges catastrophic deficiencies and concerns with B.C. mines ministry

Taranis received its most recent drill permit last January, after
filing an application in March 2019. (Photo: Taranis Resources)

In October 2018 the company applied for permission to conduct a 10,000-kilogram sample. The program would supply material for metallurgical tests as part of Thor’s PEA studies and also remove environmentally harmful stockpiles resulting from historic mining, Taranis states. Since then, the company maintains, it has dealt with “28 technical reviewers from four sectors” over a 17-month period.

Responding in 2018, the government applied requirements previously used only for large-scale commercial mining but which were to be adapted to the bulk mining proposal, the company states. Taranis says it agreed, but a technical review that should have taken 60 days has dragged on since September 2019.

Input from 28 technical reviewers led to modifications of site layouts, water treatment and other aspects of the original proposal, Taranis avers, but the process also featured “multiple catastrophic deficiencies and concerns,” as well as “moving goalposts.”

The latter consisted of a demand that engineering drawings be stamped “final” instead of “draft,” undermining “the spirit of technical review.” The company called for assurance that “‘final’ site-engineering plans aren’t modified multiple times based on whims of improperly managed technical reviewers.”

During a March 12 conference call between the company and ministry officials, Taranis states, deputy chief mines inspector Lowell Constable attributed Mount Polley to the decision to apply large-scale commercial mining standards to the bulk sample application.

In a 2014 tailings dam failure at Imperial Metals’ (TSX:III) Mount Polley copper-gold operation, some eight million cubic metres of waste poured into the waterways of B.C.’s Cariboo region.

According to Taranis, Constable said that “there are no minor tailings facilities anymore in the code. So big or small, I’m not going to lie, there are a lot of pieces still moving around in the tailings management code.”

The company argues that “it is unreasonable that full-scale commercial mine permitting scope and associated costs be applied carte blanche to any and all test production scenarios.”

While the company believed conditional permitting would be a “cornerstone” of its application, Taranis quoted mines ministry executive regional director Heather Cullen as saying, “We are getting away from issuing conditional permits—conditional permits are not the way we are going.…”

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…—Taranis Resources
board of directors

Taranis maintains that the conference call demonstrated that “there are no clear, concise, reasonable permitting allowances for exploration bulk sampling in B.C.—an essential exploration tool to the mining business. Up until 2018, there was a well-defined permitting process for exploration bulk sampling.”

The company’s board of directors states: “Based on our experience, 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.”

A week before the conference call, independent MLA and former B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver criticized the New Democratic government for prolonging “regulatory inconsistencies” regarding Pacific Booker Minerals’ (TSXV:BKM) proposed Morrison copper-gold-molybdenum mine. After the initial rejection by B.C.’s previous Liberal government in 2012, the provincial Supreme Court found the decision “failed to comport with the requirements of procedural fairness.” Ordered to reassess the proposal, the NDP government “once again rejected the project in order to undergo further assessment,” Weaver argued. “However, in its order, the government appeared to issue unclear directions that substantially delay the process.”

Thor’s 2013 maiden resource gave the project open pit and underground resources totalling:

  • indicated: 640,000 tonnes averaging 0.88 g/t gold, 187 g/t silver, 0.14% copper, 2.51% lead and 3.51% zinc

  • inferred: 424,000 tonnes averaging 0.98 g/t gold, 176 g/t silver, 0.14% copper, 2.26% lead and 3.2% zinc

The property includes five zones that began mining in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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

Was Pacific Booker’s proposed mine sacrificed for an LNG project? Former B.C. Green leader raises questions

March 9th, 2020

by Greg Klein | March 9, 2020

While Greens might seem unlikely defenders of mining, an independent MLA who served as British Columbia party leader has taken up the case of Pacific Booker Minerals TSXV:BKM. In doing so, Andrew Weaver voiced concerns that the previous BC Liberal government, supposedly a supporter of resource development, may have pitted one project against another. He also criticized the current New Democratic Party government for stalling on the company’s latest environmental review.

Was Pacific Booker’s proposed mine sacrificed for LNG project? Former B.C. Green leader raises questions

Considerations more political than environmental
might have caused a B.C. mine’s rejection,
said a climate scientist/MLA.

In legislature on March 5, Weaver criticized the NDP for “regulatory inconsistencies” involving Pacific Booker’s Morrison project. The proposed copper-gold-molybdenum mine first met provincial rejection in 2012 despite an Environmental Assessment Office report which found that, with successful mitigation measures, the mine is “not likely to have significant adverse effects.”

Weaver stated, “There’s some suspicion that the decision around the Morrison mine had less to do with environmental concerns and more to do with political calculation.”

A staunch LNG opponent, Weaver told the legislature that “certain natural gas projects were located in areas close to the Morrison mine. Comments from groups engaged in the Pacific Booker project have indicated that the province was facing significant pressure to avoid reopening discussions around the Morrison mine in order to obtain the support necessary for the Prince Rupert gas transmission line.”

In 2013 then-BC Liberal leader Christy Clark made LNG the focal point of her re-election campaign, vowing the new industry would build three plants by 2020, create 100,000 jobs and provide $100 billion in government revenue, erasing B.C.’s debt. Her party won the election but no LNG facilities were built.

The 900-kilometre Prince Rupert gas transmission line would have connected B.C.’s oil-rich Peace district with the proposed Pacific Northwest LNG plant on the coast. That $11.4-billion project was shelved in July 2017 after the lead investor, Malaysia’s state-owned PETRONAS, backed out.

Morrison’s 2012 rejection “had serious repercussions for Pacific Booker,” Weaver pointed out. “Their share price plummeted from $14.95 to $4.95 in one day and many investors lost their life savings. What’s more is that the ministry failed to inform Pacific Booker of its intention to issue an adverse recommendation and did not provide the company with an opportunity to respond to it.”

In December 2013 B.C.’s Supreme Court ordered the province to reconsider the mine, ruling that the cabinet’s rejection “failed to comport with the requirements of procedural fairness.”

But when the BC Liberal government ordered further assessment of the proposal in July 2015, Weaver charged, the province failed to provide clear directions, further stalling the project into the NDP’s administration, which started in June 2017.

Mines minister Bruce Ralston replied that “the EAO continues to work with the company on this, and I’m advised that the latest submission was received by the EAO in December 2019.”

Weaver’s blog stated he was “not particularly impressed with the minister’s response to my questions. I intend to explore this issue further in the coming weeks.”

In a March 9 statement on “recent volatility in our market activity,” Pacific Booker director John Plourde expressed the company’s “appreciation to Dr. Weaver for bringing this matter to the attention of the House and Mr. Ralston, and our hope that his intent to explore this further in the coming weeks brings a resolution to the issue.”

Greens hold the balance of power in B.C.’s minority government. Weaver, a University of Victoria climate scientist, left the party in January for family reasons and announced his intention to retire from politics.

Earth science for everyone

July 29th, 2016

Geoscience B.C. puts extensive resource knowledge into the public domain

by Greg Klein

Geoscience B.C. puts extensive resource knowledge into the public domain

Outfitted with sensitive magnetometers, three Cessna Super Caravans
will fly the largest survey in Geoscience B.C.’s 11-year history.
(Photo: Geoscience B.C.)

 

It’s probably one of the biggest geophysical surveys underway anywhere. Pilots now have three magnetometer-equipped Cessnas criss-crossing an especially rugged 24,000-square-kilometre expanse of west-central British Columbia on tight, 250-metre linespacing. This is Search Phase II, part of an even bigger project that will make “a generational contribution to better understand the area’s geology and mineral potential,” says Bruce Madu, VP of minerals and mining for Geoscience B.C. But the results will hardly be limited to industry. The non-profit’s mission is to access “earth science for everyone.”

Data of this quality rarely finds its way to junior explorers, let alone prospectors. But proprietary software makes it available to anyone with an internet connection. Besides mineral opportunities, practical advantages include land use planning for regional districts, local communities and First Nations.

The grid extends from Fort Fraser to Smithers, building on two previous surveys. Last year’s Phase I flew over neighbouring terrain between Terrace, Kitimat and Smithers. The 2013 TREK program covered an area bounded by Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake and Quesnel, conducting sampling and mapping, as well as airborne mag. The three surveys combined will cover 55,500 square kilometres, about the size of Nova Scotia.

Geoscience B.C. puts extensive resource knowledge into the public domain

When combined with two previous surveys, this year’s program
will provide magnetic data for 55,500 square kilometres.
(Photo: Geoscience B.C.)

TREK’s inspiration came from the Blackwater discovery, now New Gold’s (TSX:NGD) proposed open pit mine with reserves of 8.2 million ounces gold and 61 million ounces silver. Yet “the surrounding geology is poorly understood,” Madu says.

The Phase II flyover includes another proposed mine, Pacific Booker Minerals’ (TSXV:PBM) Morrison copper-gold project, as well as Thompson Creek Metals’ (TSX:TCM) majority-held Endako molybdenum mine and the former Bell-Granisle copper-gold mines. The survey just bypasses Imperial Metals’ (TSX:III) 50%-held Huckleberry copper mine.

Low prices put Endako on care and maintenance, with Huckleberry slated to follow this summer. But Geoscience B.C. helped extend the latter mine’s life by about two years, Madu says. “We flew some geophysics, the company participated and ended up drilling new ore. A couple of hundred jobs were given a couple more years.”

The region “clearly has substantial mineral potential,” Madu points out. “Even more importantly it has excellent infrastructure, lots of road networks, there’s rail in the area and hydro nearby, so it can be quite a cost-effective place to discover and develop a mine.”

Having just reconnoitred with the Search Phase II crew, Madu waxes enthusiastically about the staff, the three Cessna Super Caravans especially suited for this survey’s challenges, the ultra-sensitive magnetometers and the preliminary data. “It excites me—the quality is superb.”

Phase II comprises one of 13 projects scheduled for this year, with a budget totalling $2.5 million. “They cover all sorts of perspectives,” Madu says. “We’ll be active in the Sheep Creek, Barkerville and Cassiar gold camps, the Toodoggone region, we’ve got a mapping crew south of Terrace working on last year’s geophysics, we’ll be east of the Penticton gold camp around the Boundary area. We have chemistry projects re-analyzing almost 5,000 archive samples from southeastern British Columbia as well as the Atlin area. And we’ve got a lot of value-added projects on the go this year, taking existing data and putting together a more complete picture combining geophysics, geochemistry and geology, which I think is a big advantage for the industry’s future, being able to have these super-sized data sets.”

Not limited to mineral exploration, Geoscience B.C. also conducts surveys related to areas such as oil and gas, geothermal energy and groundwater.

In addition to fundamental baseline data creation, we do a lot of innovative research as well.—Bruce Madu,
VP of minerals and
mining for Geoscience B.C.

“On the minerals side, during our 11 years of operation we surveyed a large portion of the province with geophysics, we re-analyzed almost the entire suite of geochemical samples for the province, we provided a lot of innovative research in glacial tills and tree-top sampling, we funded new geochemical methods using water in the field as well as capturing gases and sampling organic materials. So in addition to fundamental baseline data creation, we do a lot of innovative research as well.”

Next year’s plans call for Search Phase III extending northeast to the Quesnel copper belt and covering a region that hosts Imperial’s Mount Polley copper-gold-silver mine, the auriferous turf of Barkerville Gold Mines TSXV:BGM, Thompson Creek’s Mount Milligan copper-gold operation and AuRico Metals’ (TSX:AMI) gold-copper-silver deposits at Kemess.

Looking further ahead, Madu sees the organization “looking at the mining cycle instead of just exploration to see what we can do to help the development or efficiency of mining. We might look at research into subjects like water, tailings and metallurgy, for example.”

The group was founded in 2005 when the province put up money as an inducement to industry contributions. A lot of those contributions come from preferred rates or volunteer work supporting a small staff. Regional trusts have also contributed. Last May the province forked over $5 million.

The results of all that go online, available to everyone. Geoscience B.C.’s Earth Science Viewer opens with a satellite image of the province. Users can zoom in on a particular area, load a layer of data from the selections to the left, then overlay additional data. New info comes online as survey results are processed. Mineral tenures are updated daily, with links to the government’s database of claimholders.

“Viewers can put the tie-dyed geophysical charts on top of the geology layer to see how they agree or don’t agree,” says Madu. “I think that’s quite a powerful prospecting tool because one thing we want to do is challenge assumptions. If the geology and geophysics are telling different stories, we want people to research that and explore it.”

A planned upgrade, possibly within a year, will make the viewer three-dimensional, “something like Google Earth where you can tip it on its side and fly around valleys a bit,” he adds.

With a wealth of practical info for industry and communities alike, the viewer “puts the power of information into the hands of people who can use it.”

How Long Blues

February 23rd, 2016

The Fraser Institute looks at exploration permit wait times across Canada

by Greg Klein

The Fraser Institute looks at exploration permit wait times across Canada

Mineral explorers in Canada generally wait longer than before for permits, the Fraser Institute reports.
Chart: The Fraser Institute

A country’s mineral output doesn’t necessarily correspond to its geological endowment, a new study reminds us. Other factors also play a role, among them exploration permitting. In many parts of Canada, that early but crucial step towards finding a new mine faces growing wait times, questionable transparency and increasing uncertainty. Those are some of the findings of a Fraser Institute study released February 23. The first-time survey, focusing on this one issue and limited to Canadian jurisdictions, arrives a week before the institute’s annual global survey of miners and explorers.

“This is a topic for which we’ve received feedback both in previous years’ surveys and in conversations we’ve had with explorers, and it’s something they consistently note to us as a growing problem,” says Taylor Jackson, an institute policy analyst and report co-author along with Kenneth Green.

It’s a growing problem in more ways than one. But there’s considerable variation between some jurisdictions, with Saskatchewan shining brightly while Ontario, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut look relatively gloomy. And although it’s slowing, Canadian permitting’s still faster than the global average.

Survey answers came from 122 people reporting on 10 jurisdictions. (Alberta, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island drew too few responses to be included.) Five jurisdictions had the majority saying that permitting times had lengthened over the last decade. Those who reported shorter wait times were the minority. But a slim majority of Newfoundland and Labrador respondents (56%) said wait times had stayed the same.

Saskatchewan, which ranked #2 in last year’s global survey, drew the smallest proportion of complaints (27%) about lengthening wait times.

Of Canada’s three biggest exploration targets, Ontario provoked more wait time pessimism than British Columbia or Quebec. Fourteen percent of Ontario explorers forecast waits of 11 to 14 months, compared to B.C.’s 2% and Quebec’s 3%. Another 7% of Ontario explorers anticipated waiting over two years for a permit, compared to another 2% in B.C. and 3% in Quebec.

The Fraser Institute looks at exploration permit wait times across Canada

A 1983 study found that mineral production in Western countries correlated poorly with geological riches. More recently, about 60% of Fraser Institute respondents say
they base their investment decisions on geology. The rest
cite policy-related factors. Image: The Fraser Institute

Transparency arises as another critical issue. “When explorers do not understand what the rules are or how they are applied, the result can be a deterrent to investment,” the report states.

Manitoba and Saskatchewan drew the highest proportions of respondents (50% and 47% respectively) saying the jurisdiction’s transparency actually encourages exploration. Moreover, the results were mostly positive when combining those who said a jurisdiction’s transparency encourages exploration with those who at least said that transparency concerns didn’t create a deterrent. Only the NWT flunked that one with a dismal 31%, while neighbouring Nunavut got 50%.

Saskatchewan came out on top with 94%, followed by New Brunswick (83%), Newfoundland and Labrador (78%) and Quebec (71%).

Although respondents remained confidential, they weren’t given the chance to express open-ended comments, as the institute’s global survey allows. Jackson says that could change if the survey’s repeated in future years.

The next time we might open it up to Australia and U.S. and get some feedback on how Australian and American states are performing, with the idea of determining who’s got the best practices and make some policy recommendations for Canada.—Taylor Jackson, Fraser Institute policy analyst and report co-author

Nor does the study report specific problems or make recommendations. This initial effort focused on “identifying which jurisdictions are performing well and which are not,” he explains. “The next time we might open it up to Australia and U.S. and get some feedback on how Australian and American states are performing, with the idea of determining who’s got the best practices and make some policy recommendations for Canada.”

Confidentiality’s the key to companies’ candour. So a similar survey about mine permitting would be problematic, Jackson points out. With mine proposals far fewer than exploration projects, governments might suss out who said what.

“But this is an issue that we would like to look at,” he says. “I don’t know if we’d do it in a survey form but it’s certainly an issue for setting up a mine as well.”

Two weeks ago Taseko Mines TSX:TKO launched a lawsuit alleging serious breaches of transparency in the federal process that rejected the company’s proposed New Prosperity mine. Pacific Booker Minerals TSXV:BKM has filed Freedom of Information requests with the B.C. government regarding its rejection of the proposed Morrison mine. The company had previously taken the province to court over the matter.

The institute’s study follows a January report from the Northern Policy Institute examining why “a major mining boom” with nine potential operations in northwestern Ontario failed to materialize.

Do studies like these influence the people who matter?

“I do know that decision-makers are listening to what’s said in the survey,” Jackson responds. “I can say that about the broader mining survey. We have some general examples where politicians have come and talked to us and we’ve seen policy reform later. They take the survey and it helps them identify which areas they’re performing poorly in, so I think they are listening. I don’t know if the message gets across all the time but I would say they are listening.”

Here are Canada’s rankings from last year’s international survey, with their global position in parentheses:

  • Saskatchewan (2)
  • Manitoba (4)
  • Quebec (6)
  • Newfoundland and Labrador (8)
  • Yukon (9)
  • Northwest Territories (15)
  • New Brunswick (21)
  • Alberta (22)
  • Ontario (23)
  • British Columbia (28)
  • Nunavut (29)
  • Nova Scotia (42)

PEI wasn’t included. The institute’s 2015 global survey comes out March 1.

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B.C. orders further assessment of Pacific Booker’s proposed Morrison mine

July 8th, 2015

by Greg Klein | July 8, 2015

British Columbia’s ministries of mines and the environment dealt another setback to Pacific Booker Minerals’ (TSXV:BKM) proposed Morrison mine on July 7. The central B.C. copper-gold-molybdenum project now has up to three years to complete further studies for its environmental assessment.

B.C. orders further assessment of Pacific Booker’s proposed Morrison mine

B.C. originally rejected the open pit operation in October 2012 despite an environmental assessment which repeatedly stated that, with successful implementation of mitigation measures and conditions, the mine is “not likely to have significant adverse effects.” The two provincial ministries, however, considered a “risk/benefit approach” that speculated what might happen if mitigation measures failed. The province also noted native opposition. It later transpired that draft recommendations from the Environmental Assessment Office’s executive director didn’t recommend rejection.

The company lawyered up and in December 2013 the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the province “failed to comport with the requirements of procedural fairness.” The court ordered B.C. to let Pacific Booker respond to the environmental decision. The company did, but now faces further requirements.

Environment Minister Mary Polak and Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett cited a number of concerns including uncertainty about the mine’s design and mitigation measures, insufficient understanding of the Morrison Lake ecosystem and “whether there may be other design alternatives and/or mitigation measures that might support a higher level of confidence.”

The ministers detailed several studies to take place within three years, also ordering “further engagement with Lake Babine Nation and other first nations with respect to their perspectives and opinions about the mine and the potential effects on their aboriginal interests.”

But according to a July 8 Pacific Booker statement, the additional requirements include “many components which were required to be completed in support of the Mines Act/Environmental Management Act permits and [were] planned to be completed prior to applying for permits after receiving the environmental assessment certificate.”

Since June 2011, four B.C. mine proposals received EA certificates and six mines began production, stated a July 8 president/CEO’s message from Gavin Dirom of the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia. He added that last month JDS Silver received construction permits for its Silvertip (formerly Midway) silver-lead-zinc mine near the Yukon border.