Category Archives: CMA Events
The new CMA executive for the 2012 – 2013 year (from Left-Front): Katie Wittner-D, Brenda Dunbar-Treasurer, Celine Duhamel-D, Chris Winther-President, Connie Hollenbeck-D. (from Left-Rear): David Erickson-D, Dennis Wittner-2nd VP, Don Rabby-1st VP, Jackie Sarginson-Secretary, Rick Wittner-D, Arthur Topham-WebAdmin, Don Kirkham-D, Edith Spence-D, Glenn Frank-D.
The Cariboo Mining Association met on Saturday afternoon, June 9th at the Billy Barker Casino in Quesnel, B.C. for its annual general meeting.
On hand to greet the miners and answer questions, renew memberships and sign in those attending were CMA members Brenda Dunbar (l), Connie Hollenbeck (c) and the elusive Edith Spence (r).
Members from around the Cariboo Mining District were in attendance.
The Keynote Speaker for the AGM was C. Paul Jago, Regional Geologist – Omineca/Northwest from the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations working out of Prince George, B.C.
Paul gave the audience an interesting talk on the geological history of the various regions of the province as well as entertaining questions from members specific to the Cariboo Proper.
C. Paul Jago, Regional Geologist – Omineca/Northwest
After the Keynote address and discussions ended a short break was taken followed by two draws for prizes one being a spill kit which President Chris Winther displayed for members and encouraged them to purchase from the local North Cariboo Co-op one of the many corporate sponsors which the CMA has gained over the last year.
The second draw was for a dinner for two at the local Billy Barker Casino restaurant. The winning ticket for the Spill Kit was the CMA’s “Lucky” Katie Wittner and the meal ticket was won by longtime placer miner Tex Enemark.
Tex Enemark and Katie Wittner CMA members and lucky winners of the free draws.
The final order of business was the election of officers for the upcoming year. Those now setting the direction for the CMA are listed at the top of the page. Congratulations to all of those who managed to lay down their shovels and pans and attend the meeting.
Contact Information for Paul Jago:
C. Paul Jago
Regional Geologist – Omineca/Northeast
Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations
British Columbia, Canada
office: (250) 565-4159; cellular: (250) 961-2904
The Quesnel Seniors Centre was a lively spot to be on Tuesday evening as the Cariboo’s placer and hard rock miners gathered to listen to BC’s Conservative Leader John Cummins talk about some of the outstanding issues that are on the minds of most placer miners these days.
John and his wife traveled up by car to the hub of the gold fields after CMA member Linda Brown had extended an invitation to him to come and speak to the association.
While John has not had a lot to do with placer mining he did relate a story about how he had worked for a period of time on the WAC Bennett dam back in the 1960s when it was under construction and experienced what it was like working underground.
He also told the audience that his own life as a commercial fisherman on the west coast of the province was in many ways very similar to that of the small, independent miner and the types of issues and concerns that the placer miners have paralleled his own experiences while working on his boat.
The CMA has been pressing government on a number of issues regarding the volume of bureaucratic overburden that miners are expected to remove each year prior to going to work. Onerous permits and fees and increasing regulations in terms of first aid requirement plus complex forms to fill out were just some of the issues that came up for discussion.
The topics of Environmental issues and First Nations consultations by each placer miner who is forced to comply with regulations that the miners feel ought to be dealt with by the provincial ministries were addressed by Cummins who also took time to explain to the members how the treaty negotiations have worked over the past twenty five years or so. As John put it if the resources of the province are not controlled by the province and dealt with in a fair and equitable manner to the benefit of all the citizens of B.C. then what’s the purpose in have a provincial legislature.
John fielded a lot of questions from CMA members in the audience and while he didn’t have all the answers to the many issues he did assure them that his party would be taking their concerns seriously when they became either the Official Opposition or the party to run the province come the next election in 2013.
After John had finished speaking he was given a warm round of applause and then was presented with a fine looking gold nugget donated on behalf of the CMA and member John Bot. Chris Winther, President of the CMA, made the presentation and thanked John for taking time to come all the way up to the Cariboo to speak to the group.
In a news release from party headquarters on May 9th, 2012 John had the following to report regarding his visit to Quesnel:
“British Columbia’s Conservatives are a party that puts the little guy ahead of the special interests,” said Cummins. “That’s why we support policies that will make life easier for everyone from placer miners to hard working families. Policies like scrapping the carbon tax that makes everything more expensive, especially for people who have to drive long distances.”
“We believe that the natural resources of this province belong to all British Columbians and the process of granting permission to extract those resources should treat everyone the same from the largest company to the smallest claim-staker. And no one group or community should have veto power over the development of those resources.”
“Small businesses employ more than half of the private-sector workforce so government should be making life easier, not more complicated for small businesses. Small businesses do not have access to the lobbyists and insiders who influence the Liberal government in Victoria – and so they have been losing out. Decisions like cancelling the small business tax cut show you were the Liberal priorities lie.”
“British Columbia’s Conservatives are the only ones who will stand up for small businesses and individuals against the special interests, lobbyists, and cronies who control the old line parties.”
For further information on John Cummins and the BC Conservative Party please contact the following:
Miner Setbacks: BC Mines seminar in Quesnel reveals ongoing challenges for placer miners
by Arthur Topham
April 3rd, 2012
As the heavy snows of yet another long Cariboo winter began their annual yielding to the warming rays of spring, Ministry of Mines officials from the Kamloops Regional District as well as Senior Habitat Biologist, Don Lawence from Williams Lake traveled up to Quesnel to meet with members of the Cariboo Mining Association to discuss issues of common concern.
The day-long seminar at the Quesnel Seniors Center, while not as fully attended by local miners as last year’s workshop, did gain in numbers from other gold seekers further afield all of whom strained mind, ear and eye in order to take in what, for many, must have been at times an overwhelming plethora of government data pertaining to an industry that once required little more than a strong back, a pair of rubber boots, a $5 Free Miner’s License, compass, pick, shovel and gold pan.
Commencing at 9 a.m. CMA President Chris Winther welcomed everyone to the event and in his opening comments stressed the fact that during these times of tough economic and political uncertainty it’s important to remember that there is strength in numbers and that the Cariboo Mining Association must stick together and expand its membership as it forges ahead. A great part of this effort to maintain solidarity while advancing Winther stated, included open and honest debate and cooperation with those government agencies assigned to work with both the placer and the hard rock mining industries throughout the province.
Main spokesperson for the Mines branch, Bruce Hupman, Senior Inspector of Mines for the Mines & Minerals Division – South Central Region based out of Kamloops then took the floor and while introducing his staff and setting out the agenda for the day also echoed the words of Winther by further emphasizing the fact that Mines inspectors, in turn, were also dedicated to working with local and regional associations whose primary purposes were exploration and development of mineral extraction throughout the province as well as advocating for the miner.
As Hupman put it the more communication between those working in the field with those assigned to safeguarding BC’s natural resources was beneficial to all parties involved. He then went on to explain that one of the main reasons for his ministry coming up to speak to the CMA again was to address concerns which the CMA had stated in a letter sent to Premier Christy Clark back in January of 2012; one also sent to the Minister of Mines as well as a number of other ministries and media outlets. Some of those concerns included fee increases, unreasonable limitations on yardage per claim, the downloading of government responsibilities on to the individual miner, road closures and habitat.
The morning session (once an internet connection was eventually secured), commenced with a protracted lecture by Don Smith, Inspector for Mineral Titles & Mines, on the still controversial topic of Online Claim Staking. For those unfamiliar with recent developments in the mining industry this is a relatively new method of staking both placer and mineral claims that commenced back in January of 2005 when the BC government switched from the historic on-the-ground staking method to what many miners today feel is an extremely onerous, complex method of using computers to search out and secure a tenure of potential gold-bearing ground and then manage it.
The term “onerous” is used on purpose due to the fact that the changeover started out with great government fanfare and expectations yet with little apparent forethought in terms of preparation in order to enlightening the mass of placer miners thus affected as to how to go about switching from a technology that formerly included chainsaw files, wooden posts, hand axe and compass to one of quantum changes encompassing internet browsers, pdf files, online mapping strategies, emailing and Global Positioning Systems; all of which were dependent upon relatively sophisticated technical skills, as remote from most miners’ experiences as the satellites that beamed down the data from space.
As a former member of the teaching profession this writer will attest to the fact that Smith did his utmost to once again instruct his audience on the basics of navigating through the seemingly convoluted maze and impenetrable fog of computereze, megabits, boxes and windows and assorted links and chains that comprise the present Mineral Titles Online. For his efforts he deserves an “A”. As to whether or not a similar mark is deserving for having successfully inculcating the cyber-challenging process into the skulls of the placer miners present in the room that is something that remains to be seen. By all appearances the audience in attendance was, for the most part, still left awe-struck as to how the whole process worked, even after Smith’s earnest attempt to shed additional light on what must be, aside from the longstanding sore point of extreme restrictions on yardage, the most difficult aspect of placer mining today.
For the average small miner, who cannot comprehend all the computer crafted conundrums involved in doing one’s Notice of Work, or Emergency Response Plan or Statement of Assessment in order to maintain one’s claims in good standing or even acquiring a claim online, the issue is not only mentally frustrating and stressful but also fraught with emotion and added monetary challenges for it inevitably necessitates having to hire a professional “agent,” at anywhere from $100.00 an hour or more, to do what once was reasonably possible using little more than normal common sense and some friendly pointers freely given from knowledgeable public servants who also once ‘historically’ manned government offices throughout the province.
Smith’s introductory course on maneuvering about on Mineral Titles Online took the greater portion of the morning session and while it’s highly unlikely that the sediment of confusion had cleared by the time he was finished it should, in all fairness, be added that the actual MTO website, once reached, does provide much additional helpful information on making it somewhat user friendly when the basics are grasped.
After lunch the miners were introduced to Don Lawrence, Senior Habitat Biologist with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada working out of Williams Lake. Don proceeded to talk about his role within the bigger picture of placer mining and how it was his job to ensure that mineral extraction was carried out in a manner that didn’t necessitate destruction of fish habitat within BC’s rivers and creeks. He went on to talk extensively about the Water Act and all of the assorted regulations associated with it.
The question of sediments being added to fish streams was discussed at length and precipitated much in the way of discussion and queries from the audience as many miners felt that the little amount that they might possible introduce into the creeks and rivers is not enough to have any adverse, long term effects upon salmon or trout spawning. Lawrence went on to explain how various scenarios arise, some of which are natural processes and some due to mechanical occurrences, and how they affect fish at various stages of their growth and migration.
After covering the finer details of how fish are affected by different types of sediments the topic then shifted to what is commonly termed “Riparian Zones” or “Setbacks”. This is another area that has been a bone of contention for placer miners over the years as most miners realize that the closer one gets to the creek the more likely will the chance that gold-bearing gravels will be easier to find and extract. At this juncture in the discussion Bruce Hupman joined Don Smith and via the use of screen pictures began to talk about these Riparian Setbacks and how they work, not only with reference to placer mining but also in terms of how they are becoming an important factor in many other sectors where industrial and urban development continue to encroach upon an ever-diminishing landscape.
From the graphs and charts it became quickly apparent that the placer miners were, relatively speaking, faring much better than other sectors of industry in terms of working distances from fish bearing streams. As it stands now miners can do mechanical work operations with 10 metres of the creek’s or river’s high water mark whereas in all other examples given there was a minimum of 15 metres of setback or even greater.
After covering this aspect of the regulations the talks shifted to reclamation of disturbed ground and then permitting. It was at this point that Hupman held up in his hand a copy of the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in British Columbia and like an Old Testament prophet announced to the audience, “This is the ministry’s bible whose word is law.” (or words to that effect).
Grant Feldinger, R.P.F. Inspector of Mines, Permitting working out of Alexis Creek west of Williams Lake then presented information on this aspect of the industry with additional comments and suggestions from Ann Brunke, Inspector of Mines, Permitting from Kamloops.
The reclaiming of ground that is disturbed during placer mining has been in the books for a long time and remains a primary concern for Mines Inspectors whose task it is to see that after testing and extraction has occurred that the environment is returned to as natural a state as formerly existed. Tied in to or concomitant with reclamation is the permitting process wherein inspectors determine beforehand the extent of any proposed disturbance and its potential effect upon the various environmental scenarios that might arise during actual mining. These aspects are included in what is commonly referred to as the Notice of Work (NoW) application and involve the production of maps showing areas where the placer miner will be either testing or extracting as well as data indicating the amount of cubic metres of ground proposed to be mined during the period of the permit along with the various types of mechanical equipment that will be used. In the case of actual area of ground disturbance these factors come into play when the Mines Inspectors determine the size of the bond that is put in place prior to any actual work commencing. Bonding of course is the placer miner’s guarantee to government that once the proposed work has been completed that the ground disturbed will be reclaimed. The money is placed in security with the Minister of Finance and upon meeting the prescribed requirements will then be returned to the miner. In the event that the miner doesn’t live up to their end of the bargain said funds will then be used by the Mines branch to ensure that the reclamation is carried out.
Another chapter of Hupman’s orange bible included the issue of safety for placer miners and was discussed at length. When filling out a NoW it is also necessary for the placer miner to provide the Ministry of Mines with what is known as a MERP or a Mine Emergency Response Plan. This plan ensures that any placer mining operation involving mainly mechanical means of extraction will have in place proper preparations in case of any accidents that might occur during the actual mining period and must include relevant maps and concise information on emergency contact information, safety equipment and all forms of communication that tie into ensuring that in the event of any mishap emergency response crews will be able to reach the exact location where the accident has occurred.
While these protective measures are obviously self-evident when it comes to major mine operations where large numbers of personnel, equipment and infrastructure are involved they can be somewhat over-emphasized for operations that involve only one or two or three miners working on relatively small operations. A good example in terms of cost to the small operator was the issue of first aid equipment deemed by the ministry as essential in order to meet the requirements imposed by the Emergency Response Plan. All mechanical operations on exploration sites are expected to have on hand a minimum BC-Level 2 First Aid Kit which costs around $150.00 (taxes included) or so it states in Hupman’s bible. But when the topic came up for discussion it was mentioned that now, on top of this, it was also necessary to have a Bag Valve Mask, 3 Blankets and an Oxygen Therapy Kit all of which suddenly brought the cost up to around $600.00 (taxes included).
Then of course there are the spill kits to ensure that any liquids such as oil, grease or hydraulic fluids are cleaned up in the event of an accidental spill or mechanical breakdown all of which increase the costs to the small operator and assorted communication devices ranging from radio phones in vehicles to satellite phones and other high tech equipment.
On a more positive note, in reference to the filing of a Notice of Work, it was brought to the attention of the local miners that some changes had taken place in terms of certain tasks involved in the permitting process; ones that the inspectors felt would help speed things up and ensure a quick turn around in terms of time spent on securing the required permit to go to work. While it is still necessary to submit (electronically preferred) one’s NoW application to the Kamloops regional office as a first step (at which time the Inspector gives the application a cursory look in order to determine if all the main requirements have been met), if the basics are in order it is then sent back to Quesnel where it is goes to a newly-formed Front Counter office located in the Ministry of Forests buildings overseen by Dale Bubela, Tenures Officer with the Quesnel Forest District.
Working under Bubela’s supervision is Ray Jungaro, R.F.T. Natural Resources Authorization Coordinator for the Cariboo Region – Quesnel District, whose duties lie in further inspecting the additional requirements of the permitting as they pertain to issues dealing with third parties such as First Nations and Habitat. Once these aspects of the permit are cleared the application is returned to Kamloops for final completion. There still remains a 30-day period in which Jungaro does his due diligence to the process but in some cases the actual time period is much less.
The seminar concluded with participants and Ministry staff continuing to chat about the different issues that had come up throughout the day.
In order to summarize the seminar in terms of its objectives and its effects upon the participants I requested feedback from those in attendance who I had email contacts for. As well my own observations have played a major role in the determination of just how effective the overall process was so it should be born in mind that whatever criticisms are expressed here are not necessarily the general consensus of the CMA as a whole.
In revisiting Mines Inspector Bruce Hupman’s opening remarks at the start of the seminar regarding the reasons for coming up to speak to the CMA I returned to the original letter sent to the various ministries back in January to see how much additional light was added to the local concerns of the placer mining industry. Yes, some discussion had taken place regarding most, if not all, of the points brought forth in the letter especially in the areas of habitat and the downloading of government responsibilities on to the individual miners when dealing with third party interests and this was all good.
In terms of any resolution to the perennial problems involved with simplifying MTO for the locals it was highly debatable whether or not Don Smith’s presentation did anything to reduce the amount of stress and confusion that’s involved in using the new computerized system for staking and maintaining placer claims. It is my opinion that something much more concrete needs to be done in the way of providing simpler, easy to use instructions in order for the average person to go about fulfilling their responsibilities in terms of applying for a NoW or doing their Statement of Work online or filling out an Emergency Response Plan and thus eliminating the need to hire costly outside agents to complete these tasks. It has been seven years now since the government introduced Mineral Titles Online and they still haven’t come up with a reasonable instruction manual, be it in CD format or actual hard copy, which anyone of average intelligence might use to do the computerized paperwork side of their business. The fact that this hasn’t happened in such a long period of time is indicative of a lack of understanding somewhere within the government ministries with respect to their own responsibilities toward the people on the ground who are doing their utmost to make placer mining a viable industry and one that will continue to contribute to BC economy in a substantial way. Be it hiring a professional company that specializes in creating instructional programs or whatever, there needs to be a much greater emphasis placed on this one aspect of the industry that continues to remain a constant problem for miners since its inception.
The one other major concern for the placer mining industry that received very little attention or address was that of the exasperating and debilitating restrictions on the volume of gravel that an individual miner is forced to comply with during what normally is a 6-month season of mining. It’s inconceivable that the Ministry of Mines is unable to get a grip on the fact that limiting a placer miner to a mere 1000 cubic metres of pay dirt per claim is the height of absurdity. Even assuming that the miner might recover an ounce of gold for every 100 cubic metres their seasonal production would, at best, amount to approximately 10 oz. That amount translated into current gold prices would mean a grand total of approximately $16,500.00 per season. Once all the costs of mining have been removed chances are the miner might net themselves a profit of between $5000.00 to $10,000.00. Hardly a politician’s or a bureaucrats or any normal working person’s wages by any stretch of the imagination and definitely not enough to even meet the equivalent of living on social welfare.
Then, only to compound and exacerbate this problem, is the incredible lack of attention given to the granting of leases; one which, like the yardage question, has also reached the point of absurdity and is bordering on fraud for those many applicants who put down their money years ago are still awaiting word on whether on not their leases are to be granted.
Now it may be true that decisions, such as the amount of yardage capable of being worked, ultimately rest with those within government who might best be described as politicians rather than bureaucrats but filling the gap that exists between the placer miner and the politician is a network of bureaucracy that ought to be fully aware of this extremely critical problem and, in turn, working in conjunction with the miner to resolve it by lobbying those higher up in decision-making portfolios to make the necessary adjustments in a timely manner so as to free up the miners who then can expect to work enough ground in a season to survive and continue building up their businesses. And yes, we hear talk of such changes occurring; rumours of major increases in the amount of pay dirt that sometime soon might materialize during the current sitting of the legislature yet nothing that anyone, be they miner or mine inspector, can actually put their finger on and say this is going to happen and when it will happen, all of which leaves the placer miner with a sense of lingering doubt and an inability to plan ahead for the future season. These are hardly positive initiatives for either government or industry and beg the question as to why the Minister of Mines cannot grasp the problem and quickly resolve it and let the industry know about it prior to the commencement of the upcoming mining season.
In my mind these two primary concerns were still left unresolved when the seminar ended and will continue to plague the placer miner until they are dealt with in a timely and reasonable manner.
Having expressed these urgent concerns it now remains to be said that the Mines staff were exceedingly willing and helpful to do all in their power to address the questions and concerns thus covered. As one respondent to my plea for feedback most aptly put it:
“I thought that the Mine’s officials did a very good and informative presentation. They cordially answered the questions asked and seem eager to work with us (in the future also). It was a pleasure to sit at a workshop in a friendly atmosphere and where there was no confrontations. I got the impression that they would rather help work problems out with us & they realize that we are faced with problems.”
Feedback is always welcome. Please contact the writer at email@example.com
PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO VISIT THE WEBSITE AT: www.dogsledmailrun.ca/
While the numbers were down compared to previous years the Annual General Meeting of the Cariboo Mining Association held downstairs in the Billy Barker Hotel in Quesnel, B.C. on Saturday, June 4th, 2011 brought together a respectable group of placer and hard rock miners determined to resolved past issues that have plagued the association for years and forge a new beginning.
The meeting was chaired by CMA President Chris Winther accompanied at the head table by 1st Vice President Donny Kirkham, Secretary Linda Brown and Director Celine Duhamel.
Two guest speakers had been invited to the AGM in order to address a number of concerns that placer miners have been discussing over the past months dealing with changes in government regulations, internal ministry changes and problems that miners deal with in their everyday operations on their claims.
The first speaker was Brian Murland of Fisheries and Oceans Canada stationed in Quesnel. Brian is the Field Supervisor for Conservation and Protection in BC’s Interior North district. He fielded a number of questions from the audience regarding regulations pertaining to on site activities on mining property. From dredging issues to other environment-habitat related matters Brian did his best to answer some of the tough questions that placer miners put forward.
One issue that has always been perennial for placer miners is that of protecting one’s tenures from over-zealous weekend-type wannabe “gold miners” who think they can come on to your claims and just start panning for nuggets. With the recent and popular television series about placer mining in Alaska plus the incredible increase in gold prices many armchair prospectors who don’t have a clue about the rules and regulations surrounding placer miners are expected to be roaming about the hills of the Cariboo in search of fast fortunes. The results of this phenomenon are not good and apart from the naive and misinformed novices there’s also the growing problem of serious theft with experienced gold snipers coming onto claims with mechanical equipment such as dredges and portable shaker plants, etc. when the owners are absent and within days processing valuable amounts of gold-bearing gravels and then leaving an environmental mess that the tenure holder is left to clean up.
Brian advised the members on a number of strategies to deal with the “recreational” panner. Posting signs warning strangers that the area was an active mining site was primary but also in the event of actual trespass he said that photographs of anything suspicious were of vital importance as well as taking notes of events that occurred. Brian then displayed a notice taken from the Ministry of Mines that he told the audience his department would be making available to the public that outlined some basic rules and regulations regarding recreational panning.
It was a lively debate and clarification on a number of issues was forthcoming. Brian has been in the area for over a decade now and so has a good working knowledge of mining and knows many of the placer miners in the region. He also notified members that he now has an additional two staff members to assist him and welcomed everyone to contact him with their concerns.
After Brian’s presentation and the question and answer period the meeting broke for coffee and donuts (thanks to the generosity of Donny Kirkham!) and this period was taken up with discussions amongst miners as many of them had not seen old friends for some time.
The second speaker was Adam Schaan, Office Manager for Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson. Adam presented the members with a brief overview of how the provincial government is now operating and the types of problems that have arisen since the recent changes in the provincial leadership of the Liberal and NDP parties.
One issue that has been on the minds of miners for some time now has been the proposed fee increases for claim holders. Up until the AGM many miners were gearing up for these increases happening this spring but Adam pointed out that with the limited amount of time due to the government not sitting in the house plus all the changes within the Liberal party itself it looked like these issues would not be dealt with until late in the fall and, in the event of a possible fall election, not until the spring of 2012 at the earliest.
Adam informed the members that Simpson’s office was contacting Randy Hawes, the new Minister of Mines and would be giving him a list of the CMA’s concerns prior to Hawes planned speaking engagement with the CMA later on in June or early July.
Following the end of discussions with the two guests the CMA got down to the business of holding elections for the upcoming 2011 – 12 year. CMA President Chris Winther made it clear to the membership that all the internal strife that had been taking place within the association over the past few years had taken its toll and had a negative effect on both dwindling membership and the moral of the organization and that he hoped that the upcoming Board of Directors and Executive would work hard to change this unhealthy pattern for the good of all the membership. There was a general sense that amongst the membership that yes, it was time to put old grievances and grudges aside and focus in on rebuilding the organization so that the upcoming challenges to the industry could be met head on by a strong and vibrant association.
When the dust had settled and the numbers counted the association had a new slate of people put in place who were determined to rebuild the infrastructure of the association, increase the membership and polish to a golden luster the public image of the Cariboo Mining Association’s public image.
The new Executive of the Cariboo Mining Association are:
PRESIDENT: CHRIS WINTHER
1ST VICE PRESIDENT: DON RABBY
2nd VICE PRESIDENT: DENNIS WITTNER
SECRETARY: ARTHUR TOPHAM
ASSISTANT SECRETARY: BILL WILSON
TREASURER: BRENDA DUNBAR
The meeting wrapped up around 4:30 p.m. with plans to postpone the next monthly meeting until July 12th at the Senior’s Center at 7:00 p.m.
C.M.A. Sponsored G.P.S. Course
We were very fortunate to have Bob Zimmerman teach this course. He obviously enjoys what he does and was extremely patient with everyone. I’m sure the seventeen who participated in this could see the importance of more accurately marking our tenure boundaries etc. It kept our attention all day and was very informative. Hopefully we will be able to offer this again, later in the spring.
For those who took the course and would like to refresh the instruction, we could get together and help each other.
If any of you have suggestions for other informative courses, let us know. The more knowledge you have the more chances you have to succeed in your mining endeavors.
Contact Chris at: Chris Winther firstname.lastname@example.org
Rumours, Rumblings & Rock Hard Resistance
CMA Monthly Meeting with Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson
By Arthur Topham
March 13, 2011
The regular monthly meeting of the Cariboo Mining Association, held at the Quesnel Senior’s Center on Sunday, March 13th, featured Cariboo North MLA Bob Simpson, former representative of the NDP party and now sitting as an Independent in the B.C. legislature.
Bob was attending the meeting at the request of the CMA membership who are striving to find ways to deal with upcoming bureaucratic changes within the provincial government ministries affecting placer mining in the Cariboo region.
Attendance was good and interest high as CMA President Chris Winther introduced Simpson to an audience of placer miners eager to hear further news on some of the upcoming proposals and changes to ministries directly responsible for mining and exploration in the province.
Topping the list of concerns were questions regarding the new Ministry of Natural Resource Operations and how the proposed power structure will take shape and deal with issues of leases, cells, tenure management, First Nations, and, foremost for many of the placer miners in attendance, fee increases of such proportions that they threaten the very survival of the small operators.
Government de jure
Simpson prefaced his comments on all of these issues by doing his best to enlighten the audience about the present political situation in Victoria following the change of guard within the Liberal government’s leadership and pointing out that until noon on Monday, March 14th (which would be the day after the meeting) when Premier-elect Christie Clark was to announce to the province her government’s upcoming agenda, it was virtually impossible to know who and how the relevant ministries would be dealing with placer miners and their concerns.
What was clear, according to Simpson, was the reality that government at this stage was in a state of complete flux and disarray and any and all of the backlog of proposals, permits and possibly impending legislation formerly being discussed were all subject to this confusing scenario now unfolding in the political arena of the province. If Clark announces to the house this coming Monday that an election is not happening until 2013 then that will affect the mining industry in one fashion but if an election is going to pre-empt the reorganization of the ministries involved then that will essentially block any possible progress over the coming months ahead in terms of resolving the issues that placer miners are struggling to get answers to now.
The present negative image of placer mining in the province was voiced again by those present and the argument put forth that due to a number of misconceptions on the part of the news media, who inevitably are unduly influenced by some of the more strident environmental groups in the province and coupled with First Nations concerns, the general public perceives placer mining as an environmental threat and associates the behaviour and actions of small, independent miners with that of the big hard rock mining consortiums who tend to always capture the media’s attention with their giant projects that inevitably raise public concerns about environmental damage.
Simpson was quick to agree that this image problem was definitely a clear and present danger to the small operators who are and have been working for years now under very strict guidelines and regulations that ensure a minimal amount of environmental disturbance relative to the major corporations who tend to dismantle mountains rather than move mere cubic meters of pay dirt and overburden. And in this sense, Simpson stated, the ecological footprint left by the small placer miner and their operations is barely noticeable relative to larger mining companies yet the image of possible impending environmental damage of vast proportions tends to stick in the public’s mind and override the facts surrounding the actions and effects of the smaller operators.
Examples of this, according to Simpson, are two major gold mining operations located in the Cariboo at Mount Polley and Gibraltar.
Initially these mines were legislated to operate in a manner that precluded the discharging of any effluent that might negatively effect either the Fraser River or Quesnel River watersheds where these operations are now in place. Recent changes and updates plus added investment dollars have increased former levels of production resulting in the companies’ recent applications for permits that would allow additional discharge of material outside the former containment areas. Whether these permits will meet the approval of both the provincial and federal governments waits to be seen. Should they go ahead the footprint left will again be of a much larger scale than anything the small placer miner will be leaving behind. If the changes prove to be environmentally sound all will be okay but should problems arise the placer miner will most likely also bear the burden of any negative publicity.
How to counter such problems should they arise becomes an added burden for the placer miner on top of dealing with all the other legislation and ministerial changes in government.
The issue of federal fisheries and their impact on placer mining operations in the Cariboo was also raised, with Simpson wholeheartedly agreeing that the fed factor is clearly problematic when it comes to placer mining. Specific to this discussion were concerns about specific areas in and around Likely/Keithley Creek where CMA members are dealing with land use issues surrounding the opening up of ground that currently restricts placer miners from operating yet allows major forestry companies to log and also gives the hard rock mining industry access to do drilling and exploration work.
Part of this discussion included Simpson remarking on the 2003 Task Force document that was produced by the provincial Liberal government which apparently covers issues like what is occurring in the Likely region. Chris Winther, CMA President, pointed out that he was unable to access the information contained in the document and Simpson added that it was deemed a “Cabinet Report” and therefore, by definition, inaccessible to the public and beyond the scope of even the Freedom of Information (FOI) act. Obviously the audience was not impressed by this refusal to withhold information affecting their ability to mine in areas where the big boys are given free rein in the sandbox yet they were being told they couldn’t explore or mine.
A further conundrum voiced during the meeting, for placer miners who, for the most part, are small operators working within already strict government guidelines and under continual financial pressure, was the question of First Nations and how the small placer miner is to deal with the bureaucratic nightmare that has resulted from the province’s and the fed’s apparent inability to deal with one of the most fundamental and basic land use problems – the resolution and final settlement of the Treaty issue with the former owners of the province’s land and natural resources. As Simpson went on to explain it’s an issue of primary concern to all the players involved and due to the fact that the provincial and federal governments have not addressed and settled it the haunting effect tends to override every decision on land use management and play a major role in how the placer miner is caught up in the problems and unduly affected by them.
As a number of members pointed out to Simpson respecting this spectre of added red tape, they don’t see it as being their personal responsibility to deal directly with yet another level of government in the form of further First Nations bureaucracies. They felt that the regulations put in place should be such that when they apply for licenses or permits or mineable ground that they deal with the appropriate provincial mining ministry rather than having to also represent themselves individually to each and every First Nations group that wishes to have a say in their placer operations.
Simpson did his best to explain how and why the problems arose and at the same time tried to explain to the obviously disgruntled audience that it wasn’t necessarily all a negative thing that First Nations were demanding a voice in the management of lands which they had, in actuality, never ceded to the provincial or federal governments. He went on to explain how he had visited a number of different areas of the province where the native bands were working in partnership with different mining interests and cutting deals that turned potential conflicts into win-win situations for all parties concerned. Whether or not these agreements were comparable with those of smaller, individual placer miners wasn’t clarified but the point that Simpson appeared to be making was that there was a certain degree of responsibility that the placer miner had to recognize as being his or hers and ultimately it might prove profitable in the long run for placer operators to take on this aspect of negotiating on their own behalf.
Rumours of fees
The ongoing discussion regarding fee increases for placer miners was also brought up for Simpson’s consideration and comment. Again he cautioned the audience that due to the turmoil and confusion at the present time and also due to the rather nebulous and shady manner in which the former Campbell government arranged the province’s financial books, fighting against and justifying the increases won’t be a simple task. Revenues generated by the placer mining industry have been funneled off like larger aggregate in a screened shaker plant and deposited surreptitiously in other budgetary bins that tend to disguise their whereabouts and origins and make them susceptible to manipulation for political purposes, thus posing difficult problems for the small operator who expects transparency when it comes to government demands for more and more fee increases. Simpson’s basic message was that until we know the direction and the schedule of the present government and are able to identify all the new players within the various ministries responsible it will be virtually impossible to get answers to these questions but once things have settled down and the high water run-off from this latest political storm in the province subsides, we can then proceed upon the only reasonable course left, that of lobbying directly for changes that the placer miners of the province can live and work with.
Ministries of DoubleSpeak?
A final topic of discussion brought to Simpson’s attention by CMA President Chris Winther was that of the closing of the province’s mining offices. Given the fact that the Cariboo Mining District is the largest and richest gold producing area of the province Winther felt that shutting down the government’s mining office in Quesnel was counter-productive and placed a number of additional burdens on the placer mining industry that once functioned quite well under the old system. Simpson responded by saying that under the new proposals being implemented by the Liberal government it was virtually a dead issue that ANY mining offices anywhere in the province would be left in existence. The closest placer miners could expect to such a government office would be the new venues known as “Front Counters.” Like the government’s “Service, B.C.” outlets now found in every provincial building the names change and any direct encounter with government agents who can address local, immediate problems, becomes more and more impossible to achieve. It appears to be all part of the new DoubleSpeak that affects government bureaucracies at all levels these days.
The best that we can hope for is a “Front Counter” in Quesnel Simpson stated and from what he had heard this latest bureaucratic shuffle may place the dance floor in the former Forestry Offices building in another part of town where they too are experiencing the bungling effects of impending bureaucratic changes.
The meeting culminated in a discussion about ways and means of lobbying the various levels of government in order to gain answers to all the unresolved questions that originally prompted asking Bob Simpson to attend the CMA meeting in the first place. Once again Simpson advised the audience that until the political upheavals of the day settle down and heads of ministries were in place it would be fruitless to expect any changes. Afterwards though will be the time to begin educating the bureaucrats about the concerns expressed at the meeting. Mention was also made that the CMA’s new website was a valuable tool in helping to communicate the concerns of the placer miners in the Cariboo and would undoubtedly prove useful in the long and lonely lobbying process ahead. Ultimately, it appeared, the CMA is being forced by factors beyond its immediate control into playing the waiting game along with the rest of province.
Time, we hope, will resolve these issues. A hearty and encouraging show of appreciation for Bob Simpson’s advice and comments was given at the end of the meeting and the CMA looks forward to more positive dealings with the MLA in the days and months ahead.
CMA Hosts Ministry of Natural Resources Operations Workshop in Quesnel Feb. 15, 2011
[Webmin Note: The following article was submitted to the Quesnel Cariboo Observer today (Nov. 17) for publication.]
QUESNEL, B.C.: Wednesday, February 15 saw the Cariboo Mining Association (CMA) host a Workshop at the Quesnel Senior’s Center where a number of senior staff from the newly formed Ministry of Natural Resource Operations (NRO) put on a day long information session for local hard rock and placer miners to update them on current and upcoming changes within their related ministries.
Billed as a ‘Notice of Work and Reclamation’ planning session, Joe Sequin, Regional Director for the NRO, Mining and Minerals Division for the South Central Region, Kamloops and Bruce Hupman, Senior Inspector of Mines also of the NRO, brought along an additional crew of four other top staff members including Anne Brunke, Inspector of Mines, Permitting, Don Smith, Inspector of Mines, Permitting, Andy Oetter, Manager of Authorizations for the Thompson Okanagan Region and Grant Feldinger of the Williams Lake office for a day filled with new information covering a wide range of related mining topics.
The morning’s activities primarily dealt with helping local placer miners to get a clearer idea about some of the recent changes to one of the fundamental tools of the trade – the staking of claims.
In the old, pre-computer days, a person possessing a Free Miner’s Certificate could grab a compass, axe, a set of metal tags and then jump in their pickup truck and go out into the goldfields to stake their claim but those times are now over.
Today the placer or hard rock miner has to lay down their axe and compass, park their pickup, turn on their computer, grab their ‘mouse’ and head off into the wilds of cyberspace in search of new ground to stake and explore.
Not an easy task for many of the older miners who may have few of the computer skills necessary to wend their way through the maze of online ministries where instead of blazes on trees and brushed compass trails on the ground they now have to contend with pdf files, templates, digital maps, jpgs and GPS UTM coordinates and instead of going to their local government agent office and paying for their claim at the counter they need to make online credit card transactions.
To clarify and assist these transitional moves to online staking and alleviate the stress of maintaining and keeping ones placer claims in good standing was one of the main objectives of the morning sessions and Don Smith was there to assist. As Bruce Hupman, Senior Inspector of Mines put it to the sometimes perplexed audience of miners, “We’re here to help you, not to hinder you.”
Photo: Small placer testing program at the old Langford Camp mine site at 9 km on the Beaver Pass (2400) road summer of 2010.
The topics of discussion ranged from online staking to concerns about leases and cells, bonds and the perceived meager annual yardage now available to placer miners who have acquired cells for exploration and development.
The latest word within mining circles is that with the reorganization and amalgamation of a number of former ministries (Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources) into one centralized, super ministry known as the Ministry of Natural Resource Operations, this process will most likely put a halt to changes that were in the works which would have allowed the volume of pay dirt to be mined in a season on a single cell to go from its current 2000 cubic meters upwards to a possible 20,000 cubic meters.
As far as the audience could discern, until the new ministry gets reorganized and whatever government of the day ends up running the province over the next year, these proposed changes would not likely come into effect until 2012 at the earliest.
Another major concern, especially in the wake of the recent ruling on Taseko Mine’s Prosperity project in the Chilcotin, was the issue of consultation and the perceived problem for miners of fulfilling all the obligations with respect to the sometimes nebulous process of negotiating with First Nations whenever a claim owner wishes to develop their ground.
Many of the smaller placer miners feel that it should not be their individual responsibility to negotiate with third levels of government such as First Nations whenever they wish to develop their claims but rather that the province itself should set the standards and precedents for all interested parties and relieve the smaller miner of what too often becomes a very costly and onerous process of dealing with third party interests.
Ministry representatives assured the audience that in terms of the government’s perspective on the issue the threshold for consultation with First Nations is considered to be “very low.” By that was meant the provincial government’s position is to do all they can to accommodate First Nations concerns whenever dealing with issues of mining and mineral exploration.
The overall attitude of the mine inspectors was that in order for the mineral exploration and mining industry to cope with and improve the public’s perception of mining as an honorable, viable, environmentally responsible and essential primary industry within the province (contributing $6 billion to the provincial economy annually), it was essential to maintain and adhere to the high standards now set for environmental integrity and sustainability.
As Senior Inspector of Mines Hupman put it, “We have an image problem” and in order to repair the damage done by vested interests who would rather see mining and exploration disappear all together, it’s crucial that those who mine the earth for her treasures do so in a sustainable and responsible manner and that when they are finished processing the minerals that they return the disturbed ground to as natural a state as possible.
As a result of this perspective on the part of NRO staff, throughout the day’s workshop was heard again and again the refrain, “Reclaim! Reclaim! Reclaim!”; watch words for regaining lost PR ground that the audience appeared to heed without much complaint.
By the end of the session it was fairly obvious that gathering of government and miners had turned into a “win-win” situation. As CMA President Chris Winther put it, “The workshop was a great success for all concerned and we are looking forward to putting on more events like this in the future.”
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