A new Major Mines Permitting Office is in the works for the 2015 provincial budget, which will improve the co-ordination of major mine permits across all levels of government.
In an announcement from B.C. Premier Christy Clark, the new office will add staff to conduct more inspection and permit reviews and maintain improved turnaround times for notice of work permits.
“Up to 10 new mines are expected to proceed in the next few years and this new funding will make sure we are ready to support these projects and ensure the safety of this important industry as it continues to grow,” said Premier Christy Clark in a press release. “B.C.’s mineral exploration and mining industry is a great comeback story and today we have a significant opportunity to create thousands of jobs by opening new mines and expanding existing ones.”
Since 2011, increases in geotechnical staff and inspections to improve turnaround times since were a part of contingency funding, which will now become permeant as of Monday’s announcement.
That adds roughly $6 million to the budget of the Ministry of Energy and Mines. In addition, new permit fees for mines in B.C. is projected to add $3 million annually.
“Since 2011, we’ve made significant improvements to increase geotechnical inspections, hire additional staff and reduce the turnaround time for notice of work permits,” said Bill Bennett, Minister of Energy and Mines. “This investment will ensure we continue to improve our processes and support mining in British Columbia.”
In addition to the creation of the permitting office, Clark also extended a $10 million mining flow-through share tax credit program to the end of 2015. Aimed at helping junior exploration companies, the credit is designed to provide an incentive to raise additional investment revenue.
A further tax credit includes extending the New Mine Allowance to 2020, which combines with other mineral tax provisions to support new mines and major expansions by allowing them to deduct 133 per cent of their capital costs.
“Today’s announcement of the Major Mines Permitting Office demonstrates that the government continues to take steps each year to improve the permitting process for the industry,” said Gavin C. Dirom, president and CEO of the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia. “And we appreciate that permitting fees will not be applied to exploration activities because such activities do not generate revenue. We are also very pleased to see the continuation of the flow-through share program for 2015, which will encourage more companies to explore for minerals in the province.”
The government is projecting an estimated total of $338 million to be spent on mineral exploration for 2014. Exploration spending in 2013 accounted for 21 per cent of all exploration in Canada.
Since June 2011, five new mines have opened in B.C., and seven more major mine expansions have been approved.