Archaeology permits

All archaeological sites in B.C. are protected under the Heritage Conservation Act (HCA), and may not be altered or changed in any manner without a permit.

This applies whether sites are located on public or private land, and whether the site is known or unknown. 

Last updated: February 9, 2021 

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Site protection and permitting authority

Archaeological sites are protected under the Heritage Conservation Act (HCA), and are either

  1. automatically protected by virtue of having historic or archaeological value under section 12.1 - Heritage Protection, or
  2. designated as a Provincial Heritage Site under section 9 - Heritage Designation or section 11.1 - Provincial Heritage Properties.

The HCA also affords discretionary authority in determining if, and under what conditions, permits are granted under section 12.1 - Heritage Protection and section 12.4 - Power to Issue or Amend Permits.

How to get archaeological information about a property

Sites can be impacted by landscaping, renovations, building, infrastructure upgrades or development, or natural resource extraction, so it is important to be aware of any available archaeological information about the land before you start.

Archaeological information is available in certain situations to specific individuals or groups like private property owners, industry or land title conveyance professionals, and government. 

To request information and advice about archaeological sites within your property or project area, submit an Archaeological Information Request Form to the branch.

Before you can press submit on the form, you will be asked to agree to these 10 terms and conditions that explain who you can share the information with, and what the data can be used for.

This service is free of charge, and a response will typically be returned within 1-3 weeks. For faster service, a professional consulting archaeologist can provide you with the information you require.

Permit guidance

The archaeology branch provides a robust online library of reference materials that include forms, guides, and templates for both citizens and professionals as well as bulletins and policies for a variety of organizations, governments and professionals.

On the pages linked above, you will find things like: 

The Archaeology Branch also provides 3 newsletters for individuals that regularly participate in the archaeological consultative, permitting, or data submission processes.

Permit types and application documents

The Archaeology Branch does not charge fees for permits issued under the Heritage Conservation Act.

In 2019, successful permit applications took an average of 93 days to issue. This timeframe allowed for initial Branch review, referral to First Nations, the Branch's consideration of comments before determining whether to issue a permit, and final administrative tasks.

Please note:

  • seasonal variations may affect timelines (e.g., most applications are submitted to the Branch between January and May).
  • licensees, property owners, and/or developers may require other permits unrelated to the archaeological work – such as forestry cutting permits and municipal development permits – in addition to permits issued under the HCA.

The following archaeological permit types may be obtained through the branch.

Heritage Inspection Permits

The purpose of a heritage inspection is to assess the archaeological significance of land or other property. The inspection determines the presence of archaeological sites which warrant protection, or are already protected, under the HCA.

Heritage Inspection Permits are issued under section 12.2 of the HCA after the archaeology branch has reviewed and approved the application.

Heritage Investigation Permits

A heritage investigation is undertaken in order to recover information which might otherwise be lost as a result of site alteration or destruction.

Heritage Investigation Permits are issued under section 12.2 of the HCA after the archaeology branch has reviewed and approved the application.

Site Alteration Permits

The Site Alteration Permit authorizes the removal of residual archaeological deposits once the inspection and/or investigation are completed.

Site Alteration Permits are issued under section 12.4 of the HCA after the archaeology branch has reviewed and approved the application: 

Oil and gas project permit applications

Some archaeology permits for oil and gas developments are issued by the BC Oil and Gas Commission.

Permit amendments

Sometimes permits need to be extended. This guide clarifies the permit amendment process, requirements and expectations.

How to submit and track permits

The Archaeology Permit Tracking System (APTS) is an online portal used by professional consulting archaeologists and Archaeology Branch employees to manage archaeological applications and permits throughout their lifecycle. It is not available to the general public.

You can learn more about the system on our APTS page.

To obtain access to APTS, you will have to submit a signed form to the Archaeology Branch. The Request System Access page contains the latest form, and will help you apply for the access you need.

Once you have access, you can log in to APTS and submit a permit application using the APTS Permit Application Guide (PDF 64 KB).