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Question Period: Fostering innovation in British Columbia’s mining sector

Today in the legislature I took the opportunity during Question Period to ask the Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology about what his Ministry is doing to encourage integration between BC’s tech and mining sectors.

British Columbia is blessed with a wealth of natural resources, and many communities rely on these resources for their livelihoods. But British Columbia will never compete head to head in digging dirt out of the ground with other jurisdictions that don’t internalize the social and environmental externalities that are so important us to. We have to be smarter, more efficient and innovative. In doing so, we’re not only able to sell our resources, but we’re also able to sell the knowledge and value-added products that arise from them.

Rather than adopting a race-for-the-bottom approach to deregulation, we have an incredible opportunity here in British Columbia to integrate our tech sector and our extractive resource industries.

Below I reproduce the video and text of our exchange.


Video of Exchange



Question


A. Weaver: British Columbia is blessed with a wealth of natural resources, and many communities rely on these resources for their livelihoods. But British Columbia will never compete head to head in digging dirt out of the ground with other jurisdictions that don’t internalize the social and environmental externalities that are so important us to. We have to be smarter, more efficient and innovative. In doing so, we’re not only able to sell our resources, but we’re also able to sell the knowledge and value-added products that arise from them.

Rather than adopting a race-for-the-bottom approach to deregulation, we have an incredible opportunity here in British Columbia to integrate our tech sector and our extractive resource industries. B.C.-based companies like MineSense, a company that creates digital mining technology, exemplifies such innovation.

To the Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology. Partnering our resource industries with B.C. innovation is an easy choice with obvious returns. What is this minister doing to encourage these partnerships?


Answer


Hon. B. Ralston: I share the member’s optimism about the power of technological discovery and innovation to transform very traditional resource industries. And in fact, that’s what we’re doing by appointing the innovation commissioner and expanding the mandate of Innovate B.C. to support emerging technologies that will assist in transforming our resource industries.

MineSense is a very good example that illustrates the point, I think, extremely effectively. MineSense is a company which won an award as one of the world’s top-100 new clean-tech companies. What is does is it’s a technology which assists in sorting mining ore through a sensor system, which makes the process more efficient and therefore more profitable, but it also reduces the use of water, reagents and other aspects of the mining process, and it reduces CO2 emissions, therefore making the entire process more energy-efficient and, in effect, greener.

That’s the kind of transformation that’s coming about in the sector, and that’s what the innovation commissioner and the innovation commission are setting out to continue and to enhance, building future prosperity here in British Columbia.


Supplementary Question


A. Weaver: For far too long, government has ignored the potential for innovation within the resource sector. A race-for-the-bottom approach to resource extraction may benefit a few corporate elite, but it’s not in the best interest of communities across our province struggling to attract and retain well-paying, long-term jobs.

It’s not our raw resources that can be profitable in the global markets; it’s our innovation too. Rimex, for example, is a B.C-based company that designs and manufactures innovative, cutting-edge industrial tires. Their products are efficient and reduce risk, and they’re also a prime example of B.C. innovation that’s gone global. The manufacturing base and corporate headquarters for Rimex are both located in the Lower Mainland, and there are over 200 Rimex employees in British Columbia.

My question to the Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology is this: what is the minister doing to foster the growth of B.C. mining sector innovation in this global marketplace?


Answer


Hon. B. Ralston: Again, I thank the member for the question. The government, the Minister of Energy and Mines, has appointed a mining task force, and those issues that the member raises are precisely some of the issues that that task force will raise — how to integrate British Columbia’s leading innovation and technology sector with the traditional resource industries in order to make sure that they can compete globally.

Another example of a B.C. company that is transforming the mining sector is LlamaZOO, which by using data analytics and visualization technology, enables those proposing a mine to create a digital double of the mine and to plan the extraction of the ore in a more efficient way. That technology has attracted wide interest in the mining sector, and that company is, understandably, doing very well.

That’s just one example of what innovation and the support that’s given to it by the government of British Columbia will do to transform the mining sector and enable it to continue to be a world-leading sector here in British Columbia.

Responding to the decision concerning the KGHM Ajax Mining Project

Yesterday the BC Government announced that it had decided not to issue an environmental assessment certificate to the KGHM Ajax Mining Project. This is a welcome decision in light of the ongoing controversy that had emerged over the project.

I have previously toured the proposed site of the Ajax mine twice.  The first time was with representatives of KGHM. The second time was with citizens who were concerned about the potential detrimental impacts of an open-pit mine so close to the city. Our two BC Greem candidates (pictured above) during the last provincial election (Dan Hines and Donovan Cavers) were outspoken opponents of the project. Donovan serves as a Councillor on the Kamloops City Council which has voted twice to oppose the mine.

Below I reproduce our press release that followed the government’s announcement.


Media Release


B.C. Green Caucus respond to Ajax mine decision
For immediate release
December 14, 2017

VICTORIA, B.C. – Today the B.C. Green Caucus responded to the news that the B.C. Government decided not to issue an environmental assessment certificate to the KGHM Ajax Mining Project.

“We are happy that government is following the recommendation of the EAO on this project,” said Sonia Furstenau, MLA for Cowichan Valley. “The consensus in the community was clear. City council has voted twice to oppose the mine. Given the magnitude of the adverse effects and the EAO’s recommendation not to issue a certificate, it would have been shocking for government to approve this project.”

“The EAO identified significant and cumulative adverse effects from this project, including on human health in the nearby communities, and on Indigenous heritage,” said Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

“First Nations and the local community have been very engaged throughout this process, bringing many of the concerns to light. This was the only sound decision that government could have made based on the evidence provided,” said Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North & the Islands.

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Media contact
Sarah Miller, Acting Press Secretary
+1 778-650-0597 | sarah.miller@leg.bc.ca

Letter summarizing my recent visit to Kamloops

On March 18 and 19 I toured the Kamloops region to learn more about the issues facing Kamloops residents. I will be writing further about my visit in the near future but in the meantime, a Letter to Kamloops this Week was recently published. This letter gives an overview of the visit. I reproduce the letter below.


Letter to Editor of Kamloops This Week


Green leader learned a lot about Kamloops in visit to city

Editor:

I am grateful for the generous welcome by Kamloops residents during my visit to the city on March 18 and 19.

As the leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, I arrived to what I knew would be two full days of public dialogue on issues that matter to the residents of Kamloops.

My schedule included site visits to Telus’ Kamloops Data Centre and the Kamloops Innovation Centre.

I came away from my visit with a greater appreciation for emerging issues in Kamloops and the enormous potential that is evident in the city

I also had the opportunity to learn about the proposed Ajax mine project.

As I knew the project was a controversial subject within the city, I came with an open mind and a desire to better understand both the positive and negative implications of the project.

I took time to meet with representatives of KGHM and toured the proposed site with them.

I also had the opportunity to tour the area with citizens who are concerned about the potential detrimental impacts of an open-pit mine so close to the city.

As a scientist, I found the information presented to the public by SLR Consulting very interesting and was impressed by its report.

It’s obvious to me KGHM will need to do a fair bit of additional work to address these concerns.

It was also heartening to see the level of community attendance at the public session and the high level of engagement coming from city council.

I was also fortunate enough to attend a local dinner and it was a pleasure to meet with local Green party members and supporters.

I was floored by the crowd that attended the dinner and by those who had excellent questions for me and brought up issues I’d never considered.

It was a well-organized event led by a local group and hosted by Dan Hines and Donovan Cavers.

Together we discussed a shared vision for the future of our wonderful province and looked ahead to the exciting potential our party represents heading into the 2017 election next spring.

I’m greatly looking forward to a return visit to the Tournament Capital city.

Andrew Weaver
Leader, B.C. Green Party

Shawnigan Lot 21 Soil Sample Results

Late last week I received the results from the soil samples I collected on Lot 21 during the period that title reverted to the Crown.

Lot 21 Samples - Screen Shot4As I discussed earlier, I collected a total of fives samples from five separate locations on Lot 21 (see image above left for precise locations). Since automated drilling instruments were not allowed under FLNRO policy on Crown Land Use Policy, we used shovels to dig the five samples at depths of 28″, 14″, 15″, 22″ and 0″, respectively,

The soil samples were analysed by Maxxam Analytics for Volatile Organic, Total Hydrocarbon and Elemental Metal analyses. The results are now available. While I recognize that my approach of taking a few samples is a bit like looking for a needle in a hay stack, the good news is that both volatile organic and total hydrocarbon content were below detectable levels in all samples.

Lot 21As indicated in the Residential/Parkland column of the Soil Quality Guidelines of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, the only sample that revealed above-recommended values was Sample #3. In this case both Zinc and Copper were over the guidelines.

While my tests are by no means exhaustive and do not address the fundamental question as to what, if anything, is buried deep under the surface in Lot 21, they add to the body of knowledge concerning the area.

A Small Investment, a Boundless Return — Bringing Broadband Redundancy to Prince George

Earlier this month I toured the Prince George region to meet with a number of key stakeholders in the region. It became apparent from my visit that we have an incredible opportunity in British Columbia for continued innovation in our resource and tech sectors.

Prince George real estate is still reasonably priced, the surrounding environment is picturesque, there’s a first rate university in town. Prince George is a hub for northern BC and on the rail line from the Port of Prince Rupert to Chicago, one of greatest, if not the greatest, rail distribution centres in North America.

So what is missing? Why is there not a thriving and expanding hub of local technological innovation in partnership with the resource, forestry and agricultural sectors and capitalizing on the research expertise at UNBC? Why wouldn’t companies that are concerned about access to renewable energy, a skilled workforce and being able to attract and retain their workers not setup in Prince George? They’re located on the railway connecting Chicago’s North American rail distribution centre to Prince Rupert, a gateway to Asian markets.

The answer is simple. Broadband redundancy in the region precludes major investments in this area.

Today in the legislature I rose to question the Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizen Services about government’s plans to introduce broadband redundancy in Prince George.


Question


 A. Weaver: I wish to thank the members opposite for applauding my introduction of my question again.

It’s become perfectly clear to everyone in this House — and, frankly, everyone in British Columbia — that this government’s plans for LNG have been nothing short of a monumental failure. There’s no backup plan. The government is void of ideas and in desperate need of help.

As leader of the B.C. Green Party, a party that cares about social, economic and environmental prosperity for all British Columbians, I visited Prince George earlier this month. I was struck by the potential for this region.

Prince George is a home of a first-class research university, the hub for northern B.C.’s forestry and natural resource sectors and is on the rail line from Port of Prince Rupert to Chicago, one of the greatest distribution centres in North America. The cooler climate of Prince George, relative to other jurisdictions on the west coast, also offers it certain unique advantages.

My question to the Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services is simple. Has this government considered providing broadband redundancy for the Prince George region

 


Answer


Hon. A. Virk: I’d like to thank the member from Oak Bay for his leadership, first of all, and for the question. The fact that he has gone to Prince George and recognized the great universities and the great north of British Columbia. Perhaps those to his right could learn from that leadership and go realize that there’s more to this province than those four or eight or ten square blocks in downtown Vancouver.

But I digress. The question that the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head poses…. I’ve had staff, in fact, look into that. There are actually multiple backbone fibre lines to Prince George — up 97, east on Highway 16 and south on Highway 5. So there are redundancy lines to Prince George.

We’re going to continue to work on connectivity all across the province. If the member so wishes, I can certainly have him have a briefing with our connectivity experts at his earliest availability.


Supplementary Question


A. Weaver: In fact, the broadband redundancy does not exist in Prince George as we speak. Bringing the typically urban-based tech and the typically rural-based resource sector together, through partnership and innovation, will play a vital role in a 21st century economy that builds on British Columbia’s strategic advantage.

Prince George is an obvious strategic location for such growth, but in order for this to happen, it’s critical that broadband redundancy exist in the region — high-speed broadband redundancy. The government launched a $5 million ad campaign promoting its actions this past November. But instead of the slogan “Our opportunity is here,” the government could actually create that opportunity in investing in needed infrastructure to benefit B.C.’s northern communities.

At $20,000 to $25,000 per kilometre, a 300-kilometre distance from Prince George to Chetwynd would cost a mere $6 million to $7.5 million to lay. Tech investors, data distribution centres and other innovators will not invest substantively in Prince George until broadband redundancy exists. The best part about this opportunity is that the cost to government is small and the potential benefits are unbounded.

To the Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services, my question is simple. Will the government commit to invest the $6 million to $7.5 million, today, required to ensure high-speed broadband redundancy for Prince George and real, sustainable and diversified economic prosperity to the north? And, if not, why not?


Answer


Hon. A. Virk: I know that the members from Prince George and members of the rural caucus certainly applaud the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head in terms of his continued interest in rural British Columbia and continued interest in the north.

As I said, there is multiple backbone fibre lines to Prince George, but let’s look beyond that. The member will certainly recall the additional $10 million committed to increase connectivity all across British Columbia. We’re at 94 percent. We’re at 94 percent right now; 94 percent of British Columbians currently have access to high-speed Internet — considered in today’s technology environment.

We are committed to ensuring that every single British Columbian is connected to high-speed Internet because it’s become a stable item. We are committed that every single person in British Columbia by 2021 has access to high-speed Internet.


Video of Question Period



Media Release


Media Release: February 25, 2016
Andrew Weaver – Tech investment in Northern BC lacking
For immediate release

Victoria B.C. – Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party and MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, today offered government an untapped opportunity for job creation and technological innovation in northern British Columbia through the introduction of broadband redundancy into the region.

Prince George is home to a first class research university, the hub for northern BC’s forestry and natural resource sectors, and on the rail line from the Port of Prince Rupert to Chicago, one of greatest rail distribution centres in North America. The cooler climate of Prince George, relative to other jurisdictions on the west coast, also offers unique advantages for data centres.

“Bringing the typically urban-based tech and typically rural-based resource sectors together through partnership and innovation will play a vital role in building a 21st century economy that builds on British Columbia’s strategic advantages,” says Weaver. “In order for these to be possible, it is critical that broadband internet redundancy be brought to the region. This means investing in another line of broadband connectivity for Prince George.”

Broadband redundancy is when a city has at least two lines of connectivity to the rest of the world. Currently Prince George only has one direct highspeed line to Vancouver.

“Tech investors, data distribution centres, and other innovators will not invest substantively in Prince George until the infrastructure is there,” says Weaver. “The best part about this opportunity is that the cost to government is negligible and the potential benefits are unbounded.”

At a cost of about $20,000 to $25,000 per kilometre, the 300 km distance connecting Prince George to Chetwynd would cost between $6 million and $7.5 million to lay.

Telus invested $75m in a new data centre in Kamloops which opened in 2014.

“The fact that Kamloops has broadband redundancy is one of the key reasons they invested $75 million in a new data centre,” says Weaver. “This is just one example of the potential opportunities that could exist.”

Andrew Weaver asked the Minister of Technology and Innovation if he would support an investment in broadband redundancy for the city of Prince George today in Question Period.

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Media contact
Mat Wright
Press Secretary – Andrew Weaver MLA
Cell: 250 216 3382
Mat.wright@leg.bc.ca
Twitter: @MatVic

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