B.C. ends jade mining in northwest, all mines to close in 5 years

Environmental harm, compliance, and enforcement cited as reasons why the province is curtailing mining operations.

British Columbia isn't allowing any new jade mines to open in the northwest, and has set a five-year wind-down period for existing operations.

A statement from the Ministry of Energy and Mines says officials have been working closely with First Nations to address concerns about the effects of jade mining on sensitive alpine environments in the area near Dease Lake, about 1,750 kilometres northwest of Vancouver.

An order under the Environment and Land Use Act was necessary to protect the area from further harm and disturbance, it said.

Mining activities on new tenures must stop immediately, while existing tenure holders may continue operating for five years with "enhanced regulatory requirements," allowing them "adequate time to wind down."

"The ministry has been working closely with local First Nations, with input from industry, to address concerns regarding the environmental impacts to sensitive alpine environments from jade mining in the Turnagain region of northwestern B.C.," the statement reads. "The order is needed to protect these areas from further harm and disturbance."

In addition to environmental harms, the ministry said jade mining has posed significant challenges when it comes to permitting, compliance and enforcement in northwestern B.C., where many sites are only accessible by helicopter.

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The province said the order is limited to jade mining in that region, and it does not affect other kinds of mining or jade tenures elsewhere in B.C.

Jade is the provincial stone, and in 2016, under the then-B.C. Liberal government, energy and mines minister Bill Bennett declared May 28 as Jade Day, to promote awareness of its "economic benefits."

However, there has been significant contention over jade mining in the past several years. In 2020, the province, under the B.C. NDP government, implemented a temporary ban on jade placer mining in the northern half of B.C.

CBC News reached out to the Tahltan Central government, which has publicly objected to jade mining on its territories, but no one was immediately available to comment.

In a 2021 statement, the nation demanded an end to a reality TV show Jade Fever, which followed a jade mining operation on Tahltan territory. It also criticized the province's ban on placer mining, saying it didn't go far enough.

About two months later, in July 2021, the province updated its ban on jade mining to include a ban on hard rock jade mining.

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Companies say they were not consulted

In response to the province's bans, two companies, Cassiar Jade Contracting Inc. and Glenpark Enterprises Ltd. filed a lawsuit against the B.C. government in March 2024 seeking financial compensation for the monetary damages caused by the bans.

In April, the province filed a response in court, stating the companies "could never have had a reasonable expectation of unconditional rights in relation to their mining claims." The lawsuit remains before the courts as of publication.

Glenpark president Kristin Rosequist said she thought the government was going to announce a reform of the province's jade mining industry in the northwest — not a total shutdown.

"I hope that the people can recognize that the government is being so heavy-handed," she told CBC News. "In lieu of enforcing their own regulations, they find it more suitable to shut down an entire industry."

Tony Ritter, the president of Cassiar Jade, said mining companies were not appropriately consulted before the latest announcement, and that the government has only just reached out to set up a working group to discuss the incoming regulations.

"I have a lot of questions that are unanswered," he said.

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Ritter said companies like his are being punished despite an excellent environmental record, due to other companies' disregard of the regulations.

This article was written for the CBC. Header image: File photo of jade via Canva Pro.