Over the years, mining companies have had to address environmental and social concerns in addition to overcoming instability and adversity in a volatile commodities market. Today, there is more focus on environmental impacts and sustainability of projects than ever before. Mining companies must increasingly be cognizant of the impact they may be having on the environment and communities and are establishing protective measures and strategies for engagement with stakeholders that are becoming embedded into the mining culture. Changes in environmental legislation and processes are also placing heightened demands on how mining operations are conducted.

With PDAC (the world’s premier mineral exploration and mining convention) taking place this week, we wanted to share five recent mining-environmental developments to help get you ready.

  1. Following changes to Canada’s federal Environmental Assessment (now called Impact Assessment) process, new and amended federal legislation that will likely apply to most mining projects came into force in the second half of 2019 — Bill C-68, Act to Amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence and Bill C-69, An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

  2. Bill C-69 introduces a broader assessment of project impacts, including on social and health aspects, the economy, Indigenous Peoples, sustainability and the federal government’s commitments on climate change. The federal Minister of Environment or federal Cabinet must now decide if the adverse effects of a project are in the public interest and should be approved. The new Impact Assessment process includes an early-planning stage and proponent impact statement before an impact assessment begins.

  3. The predictability of the permitting process, the ability to obtain project approvals on schedule and engagement with stakeholders such as Indigenous groups or other local communities remain key considerations and risks when developing or expanding mines.

  4. Starting early on the engagement process with Indigenous and other local communities and creating strategies to develop constructive and collaborative relationships with all stakeholders will help facilitate approvals being obtained according to project timelines.

  5. The management of mine closures and rehabilitation, as well as regular updates to closure plans with the potential for additional financial assurance to cover associated costs, continue to be an issue that is top of mind for regulators.