Bill 70, An Act to amend the Mining Act (Québec), passed on December 10, 2013. Most of its provisions came into effect immediately upon Royal Assent. While it was rushed through the legislative process, it is not a major overhaul of the current mining regime. Under Québec’s previous Mining Act, a mining company could make a claim, and convert it into a mining lease upon proof of exploitable reserves. This Bill generally adds certain requirements to the application for conversion, most of which codify existing industry best practices. The main changes are:
- Before being granted a mining lease, mining companies must perform and submit feasibility studies, including a scoping and marketing study regarding the processing of ore in Québec. The Ministry of Natural Resources may, on reasonable grounds, require agreements to maximize economic spinoffs in Québec. In addition, no mining leases will generally be granted before the receipt of a certificate of authorization from Environnement Québec and the approval of a restoration and rehabilitation plan.
- A committee charged with maximizing community involvement and economic spinoffs must be put in place by the lessee within 30 days of obtaining the mining lease. This committee must have at least one representative of a Native community consulted by the government as part of the project and be composed of a majority of persons independent from the lessee.
- Public consultations through the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement must be held for projects with a capacity of more than 2,000 tons/day. Projects with a lower capacity must hold public consultations locally, in accordance with regulations that will be enacted for that purpose.
- Mines that produce more than 2,000 tons/ day will need to submit a yearly report to the Minister indicating the quantity and value of the ore extracted over the course of the preceding year.
- The Mining Act must be interpreted in a manner consistent with the duty to consult First Nations communities, without specifying the manner or weight of such consultations. A consultation policy specific to the mining sector must be drawn up and kept up to date by the government.
- Bill 70 grants extended powers to regional county municipalities (RCMs). Notably, RCMs may declare certain zones incompatible or conditionally compatible with mining activities. However, these decisions remain subject to the approval of the Minister with respect to their conformity with the government’s policy directions.
- The government can revoke a mining lease if the lessee violates the Mining Tax Act, commits an offence under the Mining Act or does not abide by the economic spinoff agreements.
- Finally, Bill 70 imposes additional reporting and notice requirements upon claim holders.