11/16/2011 09:28 EST | Updated 01/16/2012 05:12 EST

Rein In B.C. Mining Industry, Poll Says


The B.C. government is bucking the opinion of a large majority of residents of the province with its plan to intensively expand the mining industry, says a leading environmental organization.

In a news release Wednesday, Sierra Club BC said a survey found that almost 80 per cent of British Columbians want an end to preferential treatment for the province’s mining sector, and 73 per cent believe B.C.’s environmental assessment process needs to be strengthened.

Premier Christy Clark’s jobs plan calls for an increase in the industry’s 45,000 jobs by opening eight new mines in the next four years.

On Monday, Clark’s government introduced a new bill which would cut red tape and allow mine exploration to be done with fewer permits.

"That's the wrong direction; British Columbians have said so. We think they're right," said Sierra Club BC president George Heyman.

Heyman said that instead of cutting red tape, the government should impose stricter environmental regulations on the industry.

The province’s 150-year-old Mining Act gives mining companies too much clout, Heyman said.

“[The act] is outdated. It does create a playing field that is vastly out of whack,” he said. “No other industry gets treated the same."

Minister disputes assertions

B.C. Energy and Mines Minister Rich Coleman disagrees.

"I think if you look at how long it takes to get a mine approved in British Columbia, it's just the opposite," he said Wednesday.

Coleman said that from among 38 applications in the past decade, just three new major mines had been approved in the province.

"Our mining industry is recognized as one of the most environmentally best stewards of the land of any mining industry of the world," said Coleman.

The Sierra Club BC poll was conducted by Strategic Communications in April among a random online sample of 850 B.C. residents. The results are said to be accurate to within plus or minus 3.4 percent 19 times out of 20.