B.C. Mining Rules Threaten Wells Gray Caribou Herd

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Vancouver company requests exemption from rules to protect endangered caribou habitat

A Vancouver mining exploration company proposes to turn part of a popular hiking trail in endangered mountain caribou habitat into a road for heavy drilling equipment, 9 conservation groups revealed today.

Pembrook Mining Corp. has requested an exemption from government orders that ban road building and logging in endangered mountain caribou habitat near Williams Lake, and is proposing development of drill sites on Cameron Ridge- -an area designated critical summer and winter habitat for endangered mountain caribou by the B.C. government’s own Mountain Caribou Recovery Science Team.

The proposed road development and logging highlights the urgent need for Mineral Tenure Act reform in B.C., said Wild- sight Executive Director John Bergenske. “Forestry companies can’t build roads and log in designated caribou habitat, so why are mining exploration companies allowed to?” asked Bergenske.

Pembrook’s exploratory drilling for zinc is slated to take place on a ridge that is home to the endangered Wells Gray North mountain caribou herd, which has fewer than 400 remaining animals. Cameron Ridge overlooks the spectacular Mitchell wetlands, one of B.C.’s richest wildlife habitats.

“This example clearly shows how mining rights in B.C. are a barrier to conservation,” said Lawrence Redfern, spokes- person for Conservation Northwest, a member of the Mountain Caribou Project. “The proposed work is in prime winter and summer caribou habitat and it would undermine caribou recovery efforts in which both the government and the public have invested considerable resources. It’s important that we find a long-term solution to dealing with mining claims in areas of high conservation value like Cameron Ridge.”

In 2008, the BC government’s Mountain Caribou Recovery Implementation Plan designated 2.2 million hectares in southeast BC—including Cameron Ridge–as core habitat for mountain caribou recovery, and put the land off-limits to forestry for logging or road-building. Yet B.C.’s Mineral Tenure Act permits mining exploration companies to log and build roads in the same designated habitat.

“It’s very disturbing to discover that Pembrook has asked for an exemption from government orders and plans to con- vert part of the Cameron Ridge hiking trail into a road for heavy drilling equipment,” said Chris Blake of the Quesnel River Watershed Alliance. “This popular trail is close to Barkerville and is an easy 14-kilometre round-trip hike through forests and meadows, with plenty of wildlife.”

Wildsight, Sierra Club BC and other conservation groups are asking B.C. to follow Ontario’s lead and reform B.C.’s century-old Mineral Tenure Act to abolish the “free entry” system, which allows mining companies access to any land outside designated parks and urban areas.

Updated B.C. mining legislation must include environmental and First Nations review before any exploration activity is undertaken, said Sierra Club BC Executive Director George Heyman. “B.C.’s antiquated mineral tenure act gives prefer- ential treatment to the mining industry, and it’s time for the government to level the playing field,” said Heyman. “We must fully protect mountain caribou.”

Mountain caribou are icons of BC’s inland temperate rainforest and are red-listed (endangered) in B.C., with fewer than 1900 animals remaining.

The Mountain Caribou Project includes Conservation Northwest, Wildsight, the Quesnel River Watershed Alliance, Si- erra Club BC, ForestEthics, BC Nature, Fraser Headwaters Alliance and the North Columbia Environmental Society.

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Contact:
John Bergenske, Wildsight Executive Director: (250) 489-9605 Lawrence Redfern, Conservation Northwest: (250) 365-5350 Chris Blake, Quesnel River Watershed Alliance: (250) 296-4358 George Heyman, Sierra Club BC Executive Director: (604) 312-6595