Overview of BC Law
For successful site reclamation, reclamation activities must be carried out concurrently with mining activities rather than being left until mine closure; this is referred to as progressive reclamation. If disturbed lands are not promptly reclaimed, there is a greater potential for initially minor problems to escalate into serious environmental problems with long-term consequences and high clean-up costs. In addition, extensive resources (i.e., equipment, labour, funds, etc.) are required for reclamation; these resources may no longer be available on site after mine closure. Progressive reclamation also permits time for trial and error, and the flexibility to adapt to unexpected occurrences.
Many jurisdictions, including BC, recognize the benefits of progressive reclamation.92 However, this recognition does not clearly translate into BC mining law, which contains no explicit requirements for progressive reclamation. Instead, progressive reclamation is implicitly required by way of the mandatory environmental protection and reclamation program that must be carried out over the life of the mine and must protect land, watercourses and cultural heritage resources affected by the mine.93 This program must be carried out during the construction and operational phases of the mine, and must include the following:94
- Acid rock drainage (ARD) / metal leaching (ML) prediction, prevention, mitigation and management plans;
- Erosion control and sediment retention plans; and
- Environmental monitoring and surveillance plans to demonstrate that reclamation standards are being met.
Annual reclamation reporting is also required under BC law.95
Although BC’s current law is a good starting point, legal provisions adopted in other jurisdictions promote greater certainty that adequate progressive reclamation is carried out at all mines.
BC law lacks explicit requirements for progressive reclamation.
Enact clear, legal requirements for progressive reclamation
[Tags: Reclamation Plans; Rehabilitation; Development; Operations]
As mentioned above, there are no explicit requirements under BC’s mining law that clearly mandate progressive reclamation. In contrast, mining laws in several other jurisdictions explicitly require progressive reclamation. For example:
- In Manitoba, the miner must set out in a closure plan “the practices and procedures by which progressive rehabilitation of the project site will be carried out” and the miner must “at all times during the life of a project whether or not the operations of the project are discontinued or closed, take all reasonable steps to effect progressive rehabilitation of the project site as circumstances from time to time require.” 96
- Ontario requires miners to “take all reasonable steps to progressively rehabilitate a site” regardless of whether closure has commenced and whether or not a closure plan has been submitted.97
- Montana law requires that “reclamation activities, particularly those relating to control of erosion, to the extent feasible, must be conducted simultaneously with the operation”.98
BC law lacks a fixed end-date for reclamation, thereby failing to ensure effective, timely, and responsible mine closure.
Legislate a clearly defined reclamation completion schedule
[Tags: Reclamation Plans; Operations]
To ensure reclamation is promptly carried out, it is imperative to have a clear schedule for the completion of reclamation activities. In BC, the mine permit application separates the reclamation process from the mining process, requiring a “development schedule for construction and mine sequencing”99, a separate, operational, 5-year reclamation plan100 and a conceptual final plan for closure or abandonment of a mine.101
Other jurisdictions require progressive reclamation schedules for mines. For example:
- Washington State law requires a “schedule for progressive reclamation of each segment of the mine” “so that reclamation can be initiated at the earliest possible time on each segment of the mine.”102
- New Mexico law requires “a detailed estimated timetable for the accomplishment of each major step in the reclamation plan.”103
- Colorado law requires “such plan or schedule shall not be tied to any date specific, but shall be tied to the implementation or completion of different stages of the mining operation.”104
Set time limits for completion of reclamation activities
[Tags: Mine Closure Reclamation Plans; Schedule]
To promote on-going and timely reclamation, it is useful to set time limits for reclamation that are legally enforceable. This approach is found in several jurisdictions that have adopted legally enforceable time limits for completion of separate phases of site reclamation. For example:
- Idaho: 1 year (for exploration drill holes, roads or trenches)105
- Montana: 2 years106
- Washington State: 2 years107
- Oregon: 3 years108
- Colorado: 5 years for each phase of reclamation 109
Although these types of provisions promote more timely reclamation, care must be taken not to strictly adopt time limits where site-specific challenges require additional time for reclamation. One approach to address this concern is by providing for time extensions. Extensions to these time limits should be available when required to address site-specific challenges and when prior approval is obtained from the regulatory authority. This approach – of setting a basic time limit from which extensions can be sought rather than being readily available – helps promotes timely site reclamation.