Bill 79: An Act to Amend the Mining Act
Innovative Measures to Facilitate the Shift to Sustainable Mining
Hélène Giroux and Jocelyn Boucher
Direction générale de la gestion du milieu minier
In June 2009, the Québec government released its very first Québec Mineral Strategy, Preparing for the Future of Québec’s Mineral Sector. This strategy proposes concrete measures, including some that will lead to new practices for both the mining industry and Ministère des Ressources naturelles et de la Faune (MRNF) and that require legislative and regulatory amendments.
Serge Simard, Minister for Natural Resources and Wildlife, tabled a bill amending the Mining Act in the National Assembly on December 2, 2009. The purpose of the bill is to implement the priority actions set out in the Québec Mineral Strategy, particularly those regarding environmentally friendly mining development, development of the mineral potential in the regions, and economic development with a view to creating wealth for Quebecers.
The proposed amendments to the Mining Act revolve around three sustainable development dimensions and aim to:
- stimulate mineral exploration on mining claims,
- guarantee the costs of restoring mining sites,
- advance geoscientific knowledge of Québec, and
- clarify surface mineral substance rights on private lands.
The following are the main amendments with regard to the economic dimension aimed at spurring exploration work on claims:
- It will no longer be possible to make a payment in lieu of carrying out mineral exploration, except during the claim’s first period of validity.
- The area of land to which work credits may be applied to renew other claims is reduced.
- It will no longer be possible to use credits for exploration work conducted under a mining lease or concession to renew a claim.
- The period during which work credits may be carried over is limited to ten years.
The following are the proposed amendments with regard to the environmental dimension, which concern both mining and exploration:
- Coverage of the estimated costs set out in the mining site restoration plan will be increased from 70% to 100%, and the scope of the financial guarantee will be extended to include more than just the mine tailing accumulation areas, geotechnical stabilization of soils, securing of openings and surface pillars, construction of a water treatment plant, and the restoration of roads. The schedule for submitting the financial guarantee will be changed in order to speed up payment. A three-year moratorium will be applied to mining activities already underway, after which the financial guarantee must be paid in full within a maximum of five years.
- A financial guarantee corresponding to 100% of the cost of the work will be required for exploration sites covered by section 108 of the Regulation respecting mineral substances other than petroleum, natural gas and brine. A certificate of authorization from Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et des Parcs (MDDEP) will also be required for these sites. The scope of the guarantee will be extended to all work, including the exploration camps, if necessary, rather than just the mine tailing accumulation areas.
- A penalty equal to 10% of the financial guarantee will be applied if the latter is not paid by the deadline.
- Anyone holding a mining right who does not remove all property and mineral substances extracted from the site once the right expires will be subject to a penalty.
- The requirements for obtaining a release certificate after the rehabilitation and restoration work is completed will be tightened. Approval from MDDEP will be required.
- The rehabilitation and restoration work carried out on the mine tailing accumulation areas will be protected.
The following are the proposed amendments with regard to the social dimension, which aim to reconcile various land uses:
- It will be possible to take other land uses into account, e.g., regional planning, to prohibit mining on the land or set aside the land for government use in order to minimize conflicts of use.
- It will be possible to refuse or revoke leases to mine surface mineral substances for reasons of public interest.
- It will be possible to refuse to grant a mining lease for sand and gravel where land use is an issue.
- Anyone applying for a mining lease, except for surface mineral substances other than peat, will be required to hold a public consultation and to submit a restoration plan before the consultation.
- Anyone applying for a claim will be required to declare uranium exploration and discovery.
- Claim holders will be required to inform the landowner and tenants that a claim has been staked on their private property.
- Eskers with drinking water potential will be protected by having them declared off-limits for mining or set aside for the government.
Other measures are also proposed in Bill 79:
- Transmission of reports on all mineral exploration work carried out according to the exploration credits claimed under the Mining Duties Act (R.S.Q., c. D-15)
- Surface mineral substance concessions to land owners
- Review of all penalty provisions
- Setting of fees for processing files
- Revoking of unnecessary provisions
Bill 79 will be discussed in parliamentary committee in the coming weeks.
The text of Bill79 is available at the following address: http://www.assnat.qc.ca/en/travaux-parlementaires/projets-loi/projets-loi-39-1.html
Summary of Québec Mineral Strategy
The Québec Mineral Strategy is based on three core elements:
- Creating wealth and preparing for the future of Québec’s mineral sector
- Ensuring environmentally friendly mineral development
- Fostering integrated, community-related mineral development