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Opinion  

B.C. mines can support the global low carbon transition

Cutting carbon emissions

At the COP 26 climate conference in Glasgow, UK, world leaders were united about the urgency of tackling climate change.

This call to action coincided with six months of extreme weather events that devastated B.C. communities and strained supply chains.

According to the International Energy Agency, meeting global demand for metals and minerals is imperative to achieving international climate targets set for 2050. Up to six times more minerals and metals are required by 2040 to provide the technologies to transition from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources.

Independent research by Skarn Associates, experts on GHG emission benchmarking in the global mining industry, suggests B.C. has among the lowest GHG emitting mines and smelters in the world, thanks to our use of clean, renewable hydroelectricity.

B.C. has a unique opportunity to supply the low carbon minerals and metals needed for global transition to clean energy, while sustaining family-supporting jobs and businesses in local and Indigenous communities throughout the province.

We must seize this opportunity, and the provincial government has a significant role to play.

BC’s carbon tax is among the highest in the world and is scheduled to more than triple by 2030. Our province is the only global jurisdiction that doesn’t provide carbon price protection for trade exposed industries like mining that sell into global markets. It simply doesn’t make sense that B.C.’s mining and smelting operations, among the cleanest in the world, pay the highest carbon price.

Building on our long-standing use of hydroelectricity, B.C.’s operating mines and smelters are focused on further decarbonization. For example, the Brucejack mine in northwest B.C. and the Copper Mountain mine near Princeton installed battery-electric and electric trolley-assist technology respectively to dramatically reduce haul truck GHG emissions.

The simplest way to align B.C.’s carbon pricing with other jurisdictions is to enhance the province’s CleanBC Industrial Incentive Program and Industrial Fund which helped Brucejack and Copper Mountain reduce haul truck emissions. Expanding these programs in the upcoming provincial budget would accelerate GHG reductions to support BC’s role as a global low carbon mineral and metal supplier of choice.

Importantly, seven new mines or expansions in B.C. will reach final investment decisions within the next two years. Provincial government action to level the playing field on carbon pricing to help with further decarbonization and a concerted focus on permitting and authorizations can turn these promising prospects into operating mines.

This will benefit workers, Indigenous partners, and local communities, while helping sustain funding for health care and social services. And the environment will also benefit as B.C.’s low carbon minerals and metals contribute to global decarbonization efforts.

Tim McEwan, senior vice-president, corporate affairs, Mining Association of BC



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