Part of British Columbia’s “Mining Plan” includes protecting the environment and workers in this sector. This ensures continuous improvements of the standards that surround the environment, health and safety of workers. B.C. is a leader by example on the national and international stage as it collaborates with the mining industry, First Nations people, local communities, and various levels of government to safeguard the environment and promote sustainable development of its natural resources (Ministry of EMPR, 2007). Mining exploration and development takes place under much prudence by the government so that it is done in an environmentally responsible, socially inclusive and economically viable manner (Ministry of EMPR, 2008).
Sustainable mining has been defined as mining that meets the growing needs of all communities while maintaining a healthy environment and vibrant economy for present and future generations. B.C. is one of the first provinces to enact reclamation legislation and is a national leader in state-of-the-art reclamation projects.
The Technical & Research Committee on Reclamation (TRCR) has been dedicated to excellence in mine reclamation in B.C. since 1977 (MABC, 2008). Mine reclamation is a fundamental part of the mining life cycle in British Columbia. A reclamation strategy is included in the proposal when a firm applies for a mining permit in B.C. and mining companies must post performance bonds for reclamation security that keeps pace with development of the site (Ministry of EMPR, 2008). This way if the company fails, reclamation can occur without taxpayer dollars. B.C. mining’s footprint or the actual land usage for a mine is extremely small relative to the area explored – less than 28,000 hectares are currently being used by mining which is less than 0.03% of BC's total land base (MABC, 2008). Former mining pits or quarries that have been reclaimed and rehabilitated include world-famous tourist attractions such as Butchart Gardens near Victoria and Queen Elizabeth Park in Vancouver. Another example would be Lafarge Lake, a former gravel pit in Coquitlam, which is now a trout fishing lake (Ministry of EMPR, 2008).
Legislation has helped make British Columbia a world leader in reclamation practices, with many B.C.-based mining projects receiving awards for their reclamation efforts. Every year, the Mining Association of British Columbia and the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources honour those committed to advancing and promoting sustainable development in the B.C. mining sector with the prestigious Mining and Sustainability Award. In 2007, the Fording River Coal Operations in the Elk Valley region was the recipient of the award for its efforts to ensure the protection of water and wildlife in the Elkford, Fernie and Sparwood communities (Ministry of EMPR, 2008).
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