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B.C.’s Endangered 'Reindeer’ Threatened by New Mining Rules

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B.C.’s 125-year-old Mining Act creates double standard in mountain caribou habitat

BC's Wildsight, Sierra Club BC, and the Mountain Caribou Project, which includes Conservation Northwest, report that the BC government has relaxed mining rules in mountain caribou habitat.

Vancouver, BC Jan 12, 2010

Vancouver, B.C. – The B.C. government has created new, relaxed rules for the mining industry that allow exploration companies to log and road-build in designated mountain caribou habitat that is off-limits to forestry companies, BC environmental groups revealed today.

“We have one rule for forestry companies and another rule for mining exploration companies,” said Wildsight Executive Director John Bergenske. “B.C.’s antiquated mining act must not be allowed to jeopardize the promising mountain caribou recovery plan that was announced two years ago.”

In 2008, the BC government’s Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan designated 2.2 million hectares in southeast BC as critical habitat for mountain caribou recovery, and put the land off-limits to logging and road-building. In December, the government issued an exception to that rule, giving mining exploration companies permission to log and road-build in caribou habitat—without oversight by a qualified professional or approval from the Environment Ministry. 

Mountain caribou, also known as reindeer, are featured on the Canadian quarter and are red-listed (endangered) in B.C. The population of BC mountain caribou—he only type of caribou that subsists in winter on lichens found on mature trees--has declined to about 1,900 animals from 2,500 in 1995. Almost all the world’s remaining mountain caribou—99 percent—are found in B.C. 

“We’re shocked to learn that mining exploration companies can log and road-build in endangered mountain caribou habitat without any oversight or cumulative impacts assessment,” said Sierra Club BC Campaigns Director Susan Howatt.  “As mining exploration companies gather in Vancouver next week for their annual conference, we are calling for B.C.’s mining act to be modernized so we can ensure our endangered reindeer do not lose more of their critical habitat to development.”

Sierra Club BC and Wildsight are asking BC to follow Ontario’s lead and reform the 125-year-old B.C. Mining Act to abolish the “free entry” system, which allows mining companies access to any land outside designated parks. Updated BC mining legislation must include environmental and First Nations review before any exploration activity is undertaken, the groups say.

“It’s ludicrous that a click of a computer mouse gives penny-stock mining exploration companies the right to build roads and log in critical endangered species habitat that the B.C. government has wisely put off-limits to the forest industry,” said Bergenske.

“Mining exploration companies must follow the same rules as logging companies in critical mountain caribou habitat,” said Lawrence Redfern, a director of the Mountain Caribou Project. “It’s alarming that here in SuperNatural British Columbia mining companies are not even required to consult a caribou expert to ensure their exploration activities do not adversely impact caribou recovery efforts.”


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