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New mines banned at Strathcona Park


By Roger Stonebanks
Legislative staff
From the Times-Colonist. Victoria, BC. September 2, 1988

The B.C. government will stop all new mineral exploration or logging in Strathcona Park, Parks Minister Terry Huberts said Thursday. Except for Westmin Resources LTD. mine, which has been operating since the early 1960's, there will be no logging or mining in the park, he said. "No new works will be permitted on the other claims," said Huberts after making public the government's Strathcona Park advisory committee report and agreeing with its central recommendations. He also said park boundaries will be reviewed and set down in an act of the legislature.

Huberts, MLA for Saanich and the Islands, said compensation for holders of mineral claims will have to be worked out. He declined to indicate what amount of money may be involved.

The Cream Silver mineral claim - scene of protests by the Friends of Strathcona Park, many of whom were arrested for obstruction earlier this year - will become part of a Class A park, he said. Asked why the government sided with the protesters in prohibiting logging and mining (except fro Westmin), Huberts said: "As a government we are listening to the desires of the people … and this is a good indication."

Comox MLA Stan Hagen applauded the cabinet decision, and so did Mines Minister Jack Davis. "I'm pleased that the controversy at Strathcona has finally been resolved," said Davis. "It's clear that the public want Strathcona to be a Class A park. Elsewhere in the province I'm committed to the principle of multiple use in recreation areas. With proper planning and reclamation there is no reason why mining and forestry cannot co-exist with recreational interests. But the intrusion of logging and mining into Strathcona Park was strongly criticized by the Strathcona Park advisory committee, headed by Dr. Peter Larkin.

Describing Strathcona as a magnificent area well-known for its rugged beauty, the committee said: "Far from realizing the vision of its founders, the park, in a word, is a mess." The park includes a reservoir which was once a lake, logged-over forest land which has not been replanted, a number of mineral claims and an operating mine, power line right-of-way "and a boundary that defies park principles, not only by its original straightness, but also by the revisions that have been made over the years." The park possesses "spectacular natural features and offers outstanding recreation opportunities" and is "surprisingly accessible." But as a park, "it has been neglected and abused during its 77 years."

The committee said the park's boundaries should be set in an act of the legislature so that the future changes would require legislative approval. The park has dropped in size to 201,003 hectares from 231,434 in 1979 because of deletions. The committee itself prepared a new boundary plan which would add 34,000 hectares. Huberts said he will be announcing details of a review of park boundaries in which he promised public participation.

Dealing with mineral claims, which began to be allowed a few years after the park was established in 1911, the committee said: "We accept that many of the claims in Strathcona Park are the vestiges of earlier decades, but conclude that the government has to date failed to protect the park values by seeking to extinguish the claims." The mineral claims are "all in areas of significant park values. The environmental risk, due to the probable generation of acid wastes and other impacts of mining, is substantial." The committee considered the Westmin mine separately and said it s proven ore reserves are said to be sufficient to last at least 20 to 30 years.

Acid generation, noise, need for electricity and concern about public safety on a narrow highway used by the ore trucks are "substantial impacts on the serenity and quality of the park and the watershed. "Many have observed to this committee that, while it would be preferable not to have this mine in the park, the clock cannot be turned back and, perhaps ironically, the best chance of controlling the very serious problem of acid generation is the continued operation of a profitable mine."

The committee recommended that Westmin Resources LTD., be required to accelerate its present program of proper redisposal of acid generating waste rock. The noise level generated by exhaust fans for the underground mine "must be significantly reduced as quickly as possible." The Westmin site must be limited to this present area, the committee said, and this condition should be specified in any subsequent renewals of its lease.



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