Council won’t support resolution calling for update to mineral act
Kamloops councillors have opted not to support a resolution for the Union of B.C. Municipalities (UBCM) that would call on the provincial government to update its Mineral Tenure Act.
Coun. Tina Lange says the current act doesn’t give communities most affected by mining enough power during negotiations.
“The bottom line is cities, municipalities and regional districts have virtually no power to plan their communities around mineral rights because the provincial and federal governments have the power to override and decisions we make in relation to mining,” she said during council’s Tuesday, June 26 meeting.
According to city environmental services manager Jen Fretz, the city has little power when it comes to the environmental-assessment process for mines (like the one the proposed Ajax copper and gold mine is currently working through).
If the city wants some issues studied, but the mine proponent does not think they are important, it’s the B.C. and federal governments that decide whose complaints take precedence.
Fretz said that, should the Ajax mine go ahead, she expects to see other companies who have mineral rights around the city ask for environmental assessments from the province.
“We need the right to protect what we have,” Lange told council.
“To say, ‘No, that’s beautiful farmland,’ or ‘No, that’s next to a school.’”
Lange’s resolution would have called on the province to update the act and give local governments more say in the process.
Had it passed, it would still have had to find support at UBCM and wouldn’t have bound the province to take action.
Mayor Peter Milobar called the motion “well meaning” but unrealistic.
“The reaction [from the province] will be nil,” he said. “UBCM has tried many times to push this forward.”
Other councillors said they would rather see local government stick to garbage collection, bylaw enforcement and other municipal services, arguing that dabbling in mining regulation would be going above the city’s responsibilities.
“I think as local government, we are finding ourselves tripping over ourselves trying to get into other people’s business,” said Coun. Ken Christian.
Coun. Pat Wallace echoed Christian’s sentiment.
“We should do what we have a mandate to do and not get into welfare issues,” she said.
“This, to me, is not our mandate.”
Lange said even if the motion didn’t lead to change, it would be worth letting the government know how city council feels.
“If we don’t keep asking, they’re always going to continue doing things the way they’ve always been done,” she said.
The motion failed by a vote of five to four, with councillors Christian, Wallace, Nancy Bepple, Marg Spina and Mayor Milobar voting against it.
Councillors Lange, Donovan Cavers, Nelly Dever and Arjun Singh were in favour.