Many exploration activities, including mechanical disturbance or ground excavation, require a permit under the Mines Act.
Mechanized work includes any disturbance or excavation of the ground, and all activities including exploratory drilling, excavation, processing, concentrating, waste disposal and site reclamation. Proponents should reach out to a Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation (EMLI) Regional Office to introduce their project and discuss required authorizations.
Applications for exploration permits are known as Notices of Work (NoW) applications. There are two types of NoW authorizations:
Site-specific authorization allows applicants to carry out proposed exploration activities over a period of one to five years. Applicants must identify the exact locations, proposed disturbance and timber cutting for each proposed activity over the entire authorization period. At the end of each year, proponents are required to submit an annual summary outlining the activities (including reclamation) completed during that year. If the proposed activities or locations change, the proponent will need to obtain a permit amendment.
Multi-year area-based (MYAB) authorization allows proponents to move exploration activities within a certain overall work area. Proponents have the flexibility to execute exploration programs over the entire area and through the life cycle of the authorization as field results and market conditions dictate.
For the first year, activities, locations, proposed disturbances and timber cutting must be identified in a Year 1 Mine Plan with consistent maps (showing the overall work area), and reclamation costs for this work. For the subsequent years of the authorization, the NoW application does not require exact locations, disturbances and timber volumes to be mapped, but the work proposed to be completed in those years must be described in the NOW application in sufficient detail for the mines inspector and reviewers to understand. While applicants do not need to be certain of the precise locations of activities beyond Year 1, there should be certainty of the geographic area within which all future work will fall (if it changes later on, a permit amendment will be required).
Provincial staff authorize annual activities on the site by reviewing and accepting a MYAB Work Program Annual Update that outlines planned activities for the coming year and an Annual Summary of Exploration Activities (ASEA) that outlines the activities conducted over the previous year.
Notice of Work process
NoW applications are made through FrontCounter BC and are administered by Regional EMLI Offices. After initial intake and screening, the application undergoes technical review and referred to Indigenous Nations. An EMLI mine inspector, with delegated authority from the Chief Permitting Officer, will complete their review and make a decision on whether to authorize the proposed activities, and if so, what permit conditions may be appropriate including reclamation bonding.
Proposed exploration programs that fall within an existing mine area may be deemed authorized under the Mines Act Permit Regulation. Proponents must notify EMLI through a Notice of Deemed Authorization.
Additionally, the following non-invasive exploration activities may not require a permit. Proponents should confirm with EMLI staff whether their specific project requires a Mines Act permit.
- Airborne geophysical surveying
- Baseline data acquisition, such as mapping, taking photos, and measuring water quality
- Ground geophysical surveying without the use of exposed electrodes
- Establishment of grid lines that does not require the felling of trees. If tree felling and/or vegetation disturbance is proposed, an authorization under the Forest Act may be required
- Geological and geochemical (soil or rock) sampling conducted using hand-held tools
- Pitting, trenching, drilling, or channel cutting using hand-held tools, consistent with the following:
- no use of explosives or expanding grout
- the total volume of each pit or trench does not exceed 3 cubic metres in volume
- each pit or trench does not exceed 1.2 metres in depth
- the cumulative total of all un-reclaimed pits and/or trenches does not exceed five pits and/or trenches at any one time
- not conducted within a stream and/or the riparian setback