Trying to out-bike a train to an unsecured crossing is clearly not very smart. But once in a while I dip into my reserves and peddle like mad to cross the tracks ahead of a long coal or cargo train to avoid waiting forever before being able to continue on my ride.
Although I’m used to seeing, feeling and hearing trains meandering their way to Delta’s Roberts Bank every day, I rarely ponder the purpose or final destination for the hundreds of containers or commodities being shipped to countries all over the world. But perhaps I should considering the implications on the tourism industry.
During a meeting with a professional colleague from the Mining Association of BC this week to discuss areas of mutual concern and interest, I learned that in the quest to move toward clean energy technologies and infrastructure to tackle climate change, enormous amounts of critical minerals and metals found in BC are essential for the desired energy transition including aluminum, antimony, bismuth, germanium, indium, lead, molybdenum, tellurium, and zinc.
While I’m not very familiar with many these materials or their uses, I do know that copper is essential for electric vehicles, silver for solar panels, and steelmaking coal for infrastructure like wind turbines…all of which BC either leads in producing or is close to the top producer in Canada.
Because of the increasing focus on clean technology and the need for both rare and common minerals around the world, the mining sector is growing in British Columbia. Multiple mines are looking to expand operations while several new sites are being explored for the aforementioned materials to help meet climate action targets, among other obvious reasons.
Here’s where the connection to the visitor economy plays out. Notwithstanding that clean energy transition and climate action are so important to both the tourism and mining industry’s future, mining explorers, developers and operators also require access to crown land and water to conduct business. However, joint land use amongst various interests (i.e. tourism, mining, forestry, recreation) is seldom compatible these days and has increasingly led to friction.
I’ve recently become aware of incidents whereby a resource company has staked out a tract of land for exploration and possible development, unbeknownst to a tourism operator that already owns a permit or tenure on the same parcel. What’s more, these resource companies appear to be unaware or have little regard for the operator and the tourism values on the land and have neglected to consult or communicate with the original (tourism) tenure holder. To top it off, government officials have declined to get involved and instead suggested that the two sides sort it out themselves. The question is how, especially if only one side appears willing (to be fair I’ve only heard one side of the story thus far)?
For the record, most tourism operators are not anti-mining, nor is our industry at-large casting aspersions against explorers or developers. Our industry is only asking to be heard and to respect current land use and tenures in the type of situation I described above.
Thankfully all is not lost though. TIABC’s member – Guide Outfitters Association of BC – recently uncovered a three-way Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Council of Tourism Associations (now TIABC), the Mining Association of BC, and the BC & Yukon Chamber of Mines (now Association of Mineral Explorers – AME BC) that was signed nearly 20 years ago to create an atmosphere of business certainty and investment confidence regarding access to land and land use as it pertains to relations between tourism, mineral exploration and mining.
Although TIABC was unsuccessful in attempting to update and renew the original MOU in 2016, the previous agreement and core tenets remain solid and provide a foundation on which to build or rebuild a relationship to allow our respective sectors to prosper in the spirit of mutual recognition, respect, education, open dialogue and cooperation. Fortunately there appears to be a willingness by all parties to move forward under the guise of the existing MOU or through a new pact to help resolve some of the issues I alluded to earlier. Stay tuned.
Now that I’m a bit better educated on the mining sector, during my ride earlier this week I decided to pause and let a super long train pass to ponder where the goods and materials might be shipped to and for what purpose. Truth be told, the other reason I stopped was because I didn’t have any reserves in the tank to beat the lead locomotive to the railway crossing. So instead I enjoyed a quick nap to the rumbling sound of a train as the earth vibrated underneath my tired body.