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: December 01, 2022
On this page:
- Site protection and permitting authority
- How to get archaeological information about a property
- Permit guidance
- Permit types and application documents
- How to submit and track permits
Archaeological sites are protected under the Heritage Conservation Act (HCA), and are either
- automatically protected by virtue of having historic or archaeological value under section 12.1 - Heritage Protection, or
- 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.
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, and to see current estimated wait times, visit our Request archaeological information page.
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 Property Owner Brochure (PDF 529 KB) for home and property owners thinking about starting a project
- the Permit Application Client Certification Form (DOCX 113 KB) that all professional consulting archaeologists must have their clients sign to confirm that they have read and agree with the content of the permit application being submitted on their behalf.
- the HCA Permitting Process Policy Guide (PDF 1.79 MB) to help inform the choice and content of your permit application or amendment
- the Mapping and Spatial Requirements (PDF 5.7 MB) for all permitting and assessment maps and shapefiles being submitted to the Archaeology Branch.
- other documents and information integral to the provincial archaeological process
The Archaeology Branch also provides 3 newsletters for individuals that regularly participate in the archaeological consultative, permitting, or data submission processes.
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.
- 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 HCA Permitting Process Policy Guide (PDF 1.79 MB) should be used to inform the choice and content of your permit application (See Appendix E for more information about Amendments)
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 Inspection Permit Application (DOCX 195 KB) - Updated Jan 14, 2020
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.
- Heritage Investigation Permit Application (DOCX 158 KB) - Updated Mar 5, 2019
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:
- Site Alteration Permit Application (DOCX 145 KB) - Updated Feb 6, 2020
- Site Alteration Permit Application with specific instructions for Registered Professional Foresters (DOCX 144 KB) - Updated Feb 6, 2020
Oil and gas project permit applications
Some archaeology permits for oil and gas developments are issued by the BC Oil and Gas Commission.
- Oil and Gas Commission Application Template (DOCX 161 KB) - Updated September 2, 2022
Sometimes permits need to be extended. This guide clarifies the permit amendment process, requirements and expectations.
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.
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 the APTS Client Portal for Archaeologists and submit a permit application using the APTS Permit Application Guide (PDF 64 KB).