Water use in mineral exploration rules updated
Updated rules for water use in mineral exploration and small-scale placer mining operations are now in place to better protect the environment and provide more guidance for the people involved, the B.C. Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy announced last week.
The updated provisions, under the Water Sustainability Act (WSA), make permanent the temporary provisions that allow certain individuals the use of available water for mineral exploration and small-scale placer mining activities without authorization.
In addition, the provisions now limit the size of a camp to 20 people that can use water without an authorization. Statutory decision makers can also now require an authorization if there is a risk of potential impacts to streams, other authorized water users or cultural heritage resources, such as sites that have historical or archaeological significance to a community or Indigenous peoples.
Historically, mineral exploration and small-scale placer mining were considered prospecting and did not require authorization from the province. In 2016, a new definition of “prospecting for a mineral” was brought into force under the updated WSA. The definition change meant mineral exploration and small-scale placer mining activities using mechanical tools were required to obtain authorization to use water.
Given the permitting requirements and restrictions for these activities under the Mines Act, the province put temporary rules in place. In October 2018, the province held public consultations on the proposal to permanently adopt the temporary provisions.
Feedback from the consultations prompted the provisions to be revised with the additions.
The provisions apply to mineral explorers and placer miners who use mechanized hand tools or have a permit under section 10 of the Mines Act, or process less than 2,000 metres cubed per year of earth that contains valuable minerals.