Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall and Bryan Cox, CEO of he Mining Association of B.C., discuss the rising demand for minerals to supply the electric car industry, B.C. legislature, Feb. 26, 2018. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C. task force aims to grow mining jobs

Minister, industry stress mineral demand for electric vehicles

Coming out of the 2014 failure of the Mount Polley mine tailings pond in the Cariboo, disputes with Alaska over mining effects on cross-border rivers and the rejection of a proposed open-pit metal mine near Kamloops, the B.C. government has formed an industry task force to look for ways to maintain and expand the B.C. mining industry.

Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Michelle Mungall announced the task force Monday at the B.C. legislature, flanked by industry and mining community representatives. Mungall and Bryan Cox, CEO of the Mining Association of B.C., stressed the increasing demand for copper and other minerals to meet expected demand for electric vehicles.

The task force has a November deadline to make recommendations to Mungall on the competitiveness of the B.C. industry, improving safety and the government’s role in geoscience to aid mineral exploration.

Task force members include Mark Podlasly, senior advisor to the First Nations Mining and Energy Council, Codie Morigeau, director of education and employment for the Ktunaxa Nation Council in the East Kootenay and two representatives of the United Steelworkers.

“One of our goals with this review is to find ways to ensure mines in B.C. remain viable when commodity prices fluctuate, so that people can keep working and communities can thrive,” Mungall said.

Cox, who will serve on the task force, said the mining association will tour the province with an illustrated electric car that highlights the need for copper and other materials to electrify the transportation network.

One of Mungall’s first decisions as minister was in mid-December, refusing an environmental assessment certificate for the $1.5 billion Ajax copper-gold project proposed near Kamloops. The province’s Environmental Assessment Office recommended against approval after a joint assessment with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency weighed the impact on Jacko Lake, grasslands and an aboriginal territorial claim to the site of the open-pit proposal.

The mining task force joins a long list of reviews underway by the NDP minority government. They include an examination of “professional reliance” in oversight of industrial projects in B.C., where contracted engineers and other experts inspect sites rather than government employees.

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