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British Columbians overwhelmingly support mining reforms – poll

by ecnationtalk on October 8, 2015530 Views

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For Immediate Release:

October 8, 2015

British Columbians overwhelmingly support mining reforms – poll

Support for mining dependent on environment, health, other land being protected

(Terrace, B.C.): A new poll shows British Columbians overwhelmingly support reforms to B.C.’s mining laws and regulations – with up to 95% of respondents endorsing changes.

Support for reform was fuelled by significant concerns that current mining laws and practices threaten the province’s natural beauty and prized outdoors, and that existing pro-mining land use priorities, including the Mining Tenure Act, are outdated, according to the poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research.

One of twin polls released today by SkeenaWild in B.C. and Salmon Beyond Borders in Alaska to assess the public mood regarding mining, the B.C. survey found two-thirds of British Columbians (66 percent) cited the environment, scenery, weather or outdoor activities as what they like best about living in B.C.

The polling found 75 percent of residents are concerned about a tailings break. 54% of respondents felt B.C. mining poses real risks to people’s health, the environment and our local tourism and fishing industries while 39% said the jobs and economic benefits of mining outweigh those risks.

But even many in the latter 39% group supported change. In fact, three quarters of all respondents said reforming B.C.’s mining laws would actually protect jobs and revenue by, for example, making sure a waste spill doesn’t endanger our other key industries, like tourism and fishing. Only 17% said such reforms would cost jobs, and provincial revenues and cause taxes to go up.

When asked specifically about Northwest British Columbia, which is home to some of the world’s most intact salmon watersheds, pristine landscapes, and populations of grizzly bears, caribou and mountain goats, 68% said conservation should be a higher priority than development. Only 28% agreed that a mining boom and the potential for jobs in the region should be given higher priority to development and economic opportunity than conservation.

And regardless of whether they were more sympathetic to conservation or development, the B.C. respondents emphatically endorsed six reform measures:

  • Ensuring mines have full plans – and funding – for cleanup, closure and long-term tailings maintenance and water treatment prior to getting operating approval (95%);
  • Establishing a mandatory clean-up fund paid into by the industry before a mining project in watersheds shared by Alaska and British Columbia is granted (90%);
  • Increasing the authority and usage of independent review boards to inspect and regulate mining waste facilities (89%);
  • Increasing Ministry of Environment staff dedicated to mining waste facility inspections;
  • Establishing mining no-go zones in sensitive areas such as key salmon watersheds;
  • Requiring consultation with First Nations, and consent from them, before mining permits are granted on land that they hold the title and rights to.

When asked about the priority given to mining under the current Mineral Tenure Act, 86% of B.C. poll respondents agreed this should be changed so that other uses are given the same priority as mining when it comes to deciding how to use public lands.

Just 40 percent approve of the job the government of British Columbia is currently doing when it comes to regulating and monitoring the mines.

Greg Knox, Executive Director of SkeenaWild, said: “These results show that the people of British Columbia are not willing to give mining companies social licence to proceed with projects if they feel salmon, water and wildlife are at risk.

“The Mount Polley disaster confirmed to British Columbians the need for much tougher regulations, and the Province needs to dramatically improve trust through new legislation and enforcement if mining is to actually grow in this province,” said Mr. Knox. “Greater financial assurance from mining companies, stronger government oversight and monitoring, and establishing certain areas, like key salmon habitat, off-limits to mining, will go a long way to avoid opposition from First Nations and local communities.”

The B.C. poll results echo concerns raised in the Alaska poll about the impacts of mining in Northern B.C. given shared salmon rich watersheds that flow into that state’s southeast.

Nearly three-quarters of Alaskan respondents expressed concern about a mining waste spill in British Columbia, with the number jumping to 86% in the Southeast. A similar percentage wants Alaska to have a seat at an international table to oversee the mining and fishing concerns.

Salmon Beyond Borders’ Campaign Director Heather Hardcastle said the B.C. poll results were extremely encouraging: “As the Alaska poll shows, this is a major issue in this State, especially for those of us who depend on the salmon and who rely on the rivers that could be impacted by mining in Northern B.C. But while we knew many in B.C. shared concerns about the need for mining to be done right, it is heartening to see that there is such overwhelming support there for reforms and protective measures.”

Media Contacts:

SkeenaWild: Greg Knox (250) 615-1990, gregk@skeenawild.org

Salmon Beyond Borders: Heather Hardcastle (907) 209-8486, salmongal@mac.com

For additional information on the British Columbia poll, see https://skeenawild.org/news and for more information on the Alaska poll, see http://salmonbeyondborders.org/press-releases

The Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research live-interview survey involved 805 BC adults eligible to vote, including an oversample of 200 residents of Northern British Columbia, and was conducted between August 19 and 30, 2015. The sample is subject to a margin of error of +/-3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The margin of error is higher among subgroups. Its live survey of Alaskans involved 500 registered Alaskan voters during the same period and is considered accurate within a margin of error of +/-4.4, 19 times out of 20.

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