On December 16, 2015, the Quebec government published amendments to the Regulation respecting mineral substances other than petroleum, natural gas and brine (the “Regulation”). These amendments came into force 15 days later, on December 31. These are the first amendments to the Regulationsince the assent of An Act to amend the Mining Act (the “Amending Act”) on December 10, 2013. Pursuant to the Amending Act, the coming into force of the amendments to the Regulation caused the coming into force of certain provisions of the Amending Act simultaneously. This article discusses certain provisions of the Amending Act and the Regulation as amended, all now in force, which introduce committees to foster the involvement of the local community in the project as a whole.
Section 52 of the Amending Act provides that the lessee of a mining lease must establish a monitoring committee to foster the involvement of the local community within 30 days after the lease is issued. The committee must be maintained until all the work set out in the rehabilitation and restoration plan related to the mining lease has been completed.
The number of committee members as well as the manner in which they are chosen are left to the lessee’s discretion. However, the committee must include at least one representative of the municipal sector, one representative of the economic sector, one member of the public and one representative of a Native community consulted by the Government with respect to the project, where applicable. All members must be from the region in which the mining lease is granted and a majority of them must be independent from the lessee. On that regard, the Regulation provides that a member is deemed not to be independent if (i) he has direct or indirect relations or financial or commercial interests with the lessee, whether directly or indirectly (ii) he is employed by the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources or Ministry of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight against Climate Change, or (iii) he is or was, during the 2 years preceding the date of appointment, employed by the lessee or by one of the lessee’s wholly-owned subsidiaries or if he is related to a person holding such employment.
The Regulation sets forth certain provisions with respect to committee’s activities and operation. The committee must meet at least once a year and send to the lessee a report of the meeting no later than 15 days thereafter, following which the lessee has to publish the report on a website within 2 working days following its receipt.
Furthermore, committee members must choose, at the first meeting, private dispute prevention and resolution processes. Rules of same nature must also be agreed to by the committee and the lessee to govern potential disputes regarding, in particular information and documents requested from the lessee by the committee, committee expenses and technical support needed by the committee.
The Regulation acknowledges the committee’s right to request information and documents to the lessee, but such request must be made in writing and concern data needed to fulfill the committee’s mandate. Lessee must respond within 15 days from receipt of the request. If the lessee refuses to provide information or documents requested, the lessee must give reasons for doing so.
With regards to the committee’s expenses, the Regulation provides that they are fully assumed by the lessees, including these with respect to actions taken to prevent or resolve a dispute and costs related to travel and accommodation of the committee members, which are reimbursed upon receipt of relevant vouchers. Lessee must also provide the technical support needed by the committee.
The committee must draw up an annual activity report. The lessee is responsible for the portion thereof concerning the committee’s expenses and he must publish the report at the latest 90 days following the end of the lessee’s fiscal year.
The introduction of these committees is made in the context of the Government of Quebec commitment to ensure greater social acceptability around mining projects. These committees add to other measures introduced by the Amending Act related to this commitment such as the public consultation that must be conducted, prior to the application for a mining lease, by the proponent of a mining project to which the environmental impact assessment and review procedure set forth in the Environment Quality Act (Quebec) does not apply – namely metal mine projects where the mine has a production capacity of less than 2,000 metric tons per day.
Finally, we would note that monitoring committees are already in place in connection with some mining projects for which the establishment of such a committee is a condition to the issuance of the certificate of authorization of the project following the environmental impact assessment and review procedure. For example, the decree authorizing the issuance of the certificate of authorization concerning Bloom Lake iron ore mining project, owned by Consolidated Thompson Iron Mines Limited at the time the certificate was issued, requires that a monitoring and coordination committee be established.