If the provincial governments decision to scale back the size of the South Chilcotin Mountains Park was a test of the governments commitment to industry, as many have suggested, then the Gordon Campbell government passed with flying colours.
According to the Mining Association of B.C., the decision to scale the park down to 56,500 hectares from more than 71,000 hectares and to allow mining and recreation in the14,600 hectare area cut from the park designated a Tourism Mining Zone was positive for all of the stakeholders involved.
"This was probably the best decision that could have been made, and it was such an important land use decision for the whole province," said Brian Battison, the interim president of the mining association.
"It proves that tough land use decisions can be concluded in B.C. I think thats an important signal that needs to be sent to investors, whether in mining, or tourism and recreation, that everythings not being held in limbo."
The Environmental Mining Council of B.C., a watchdog for the mining industry, says there is little evidence of mineral potential in the area, and believes that the mining industrys opposition to the park is a "litmus test case of how much clout the mining industry has with the new government."
In an investigation of the most recent 15 mining assessment reports made in the park region, including reports by Placer, BHP-Utah Mines, and Cominco, the EMCBC determined that the mineral values within the proposed park boundaries are low, despite the existence of other mines in the region.
"Our conclusion is clear," wrote the EMCBC. "It is unlikely that a significant mine would be established in the area. Contrary to industry propaganda no mine would be precluded by keeping the South Chilcotin Park. EMCBCs conclusion is consistent with the original socio-economic and environmental study of the land use plan."
The fact that mining is unlikely in the area should benefit the local tourism and recreation industry, which is valued at over $10 million a year and growing. Stakeholder will now have tenured access to the 14,600 hectare Tourism Mining Zone that was left out of the park boundaries for mountain biking, horseback riding and motorized recreation.
Gus Abel, the president and owner of Tyax Mountain Lake Resort, says the governments decision was the right one.
"We were glad to see that the didnt listen to the loggers in Lillooet or the enviros in the Lower Mainland for once they listened to the people who live and work in the South Chilcotin Mountains," said Abel.
"It was a very wise decision. The Liberals didnt accept the NDP decision for the area, and we knew they were going to change something in the area."
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