Content of Mine Permit Application
Overview of BC Law
In BC, the following information and documents must be included in a mine permit application:12
- a regional map showing the location and extent of the mine.
- information on present use and condition of the land and watercourses, including: ownership and habitation of land in vicinity of the mine; land capability; geology; climate; surface water and groundwater quality and flow; air quality; vegetation; fisheries and aquatic resources; and wildlife.
- a mine plan that includes information on13
- site infrastructure,
- abandoned, historic and adjacent mines,14
- disturbed areas,
- a program for the conservation of cultural heritage resources,
- mining methods,
- traffic control procedures,
- development schedule and projected mine life,
- projected volumes of ore and waste,
- drainage features,
- water bodies, watercourses, sloughs, and tailings pond overflow channels,
- water treatment facilities,
- water balances,
- material handling plans and stockpile locations, and
- plans for protection and reclamation of the land;15
- a plan for environmental protection of land and watercourses during the construction and operation phases, including acid rock drainage and metal leaching prediction, erosion control and sediment retention, and environmental monitoring and surveillance showing that reclamation standards are met and that protection of land and watercourses are achieved and maintained;
- a commitment to annually report on reclamation and environmental monitoring;
- reclamation plans, including an operational reclamation plan for the upcoming 5 years and a final conceptual reclamation plan for closure, which includes plans for post-closure long-term maintenance and proposed land and watercourse uses;
- a cost estimate of the total expected costs of outstanding reclamation obligations over the planned life of the mine; and
- other plans to guide operations throughout the course of the mine’s lifespan including: an emergency and rescue plan, an underground workings plan;16 and a mine haulage road plan.17
Additional guidance on content requirements is outlined in the non-binding policy Guide to Processing a Mine Project Application under the British Columbia Mines Act.18 This guidance document asks proponents to provide more detailed information on the above-listed components of the mine permit application, including:
- general reasons for the permit application and parties involved in the application development;
- a project overview, including benefits of the project;
- the proponent’s past and proposed public and First Nation consultation initiatives;
- the scope of project and all the components of the proposed mine project, which may include off‐site facilities, access roads, rail load‐outs, explosives mixing plants, etc.; and
- the project setting and characteristics, including details on public health, socio-community conditions (including population demographics, housing, transportation and services), socio-economic conditions (including labour supply, local and regional economy, and businesses), and information on local Indigenous peoples (including non-confidential information on traditional use, cultural objects and sites, land-use plans, and documents on Aboriginal peoples’ rights and title).
In most cases, much of this information would have already been required and considered at the environmental assessment phase. To avoid duplication, where the baseline data is current to within a couple years, the regulatory authority may tailor the mine permit application content requirements in order to avoid duplicate submissions.19 However, detailed engineering and design information is generally not provided at the environmental assessment stage. As a result, at the mine permit application stage, authorities will generally focus their attention on the detailed engineering and design information.20
The information currently required in a mine permit application is often insufficient for the government to make an informed decision about the potential social, cultural, economic and environmental consequences of the proposed mine.
Include adequate baseline data collected over minimum time period
[TAGS: Mine Permit Application, Content, Baseline Data]
In BC, proponents must include details regarding the present use and condition of the land and watercourses in the mine permit application. However, there is no specified length of time during which such data must be collected. As such, there is no assurance that the baseline studies are collected over a sufficiently long period of time to accurately establish the baseline (pre-mining) conditions.
The need to collect adequate baseline data is recognized in Montana where groundwater and surface water hydrologic data must be collected from “a sufficient number of sources and length of time to characterize the hydrologic regime”.21 This provision helps ensure that an accurate understanding of environmental conditions is established before mining plans and operations are approved.
Include description of land-use productivity
[TAGS: Mine Permit Application, Content, Land Use]
In BC, proponents must include a description of the land capability and the present land-use in their mine permit application.22 However, they are not required to provide information on the productivity of these land-uses. Details on productivity are necessary for the development of long-term land use plans, and for ensuring that vulnerable areas are adequately protected and that disturbed lands can be returned to pre-mining uses post-closure. In West Virginia, reclamation plans for coal mining operations must include “the best information available on the productivity of the land prior to mining, including appropriate classification as prime farmlands, and the average yield of food, fiber, forage or wood products from the lands obtained under high levels of management”.23 A similar requirement could be included in the reclamation plan that must be submitted as part of BC’s mine permit application.
Include plan for promoting local employment and business opportunities
[TAGS: Mine Permit Application; Content; Employment; Economic Benefit; Plan]
As mentioned above, provincial guidance documents recommend that details on socio-community and socio-economic conditions be included with the mine permit application. However, these suggestions are not enshrined in BC mining laws.24 By contrast, in Zambia, applications for large-scale mining licences must include a proposal for the “employment and training of citizens of Zambia”25 and a proposal for promoting local business development.26 Similar requirements are in place in Sierra Leone.27 These approaches promote early planning for employing local residents and engaging local businesses in mine services to help bolster local socio-economic conditions.
Include details on proponent’s technical and financial resources
[TAGS: Mine Permit Application; Content; Technical; Financial Information]
Information about a proponent’s technical and financial resources can be used to determine whether it has the capacity to actually carry out its legal commitments. In Papua New Guinea, a mine permit application must include a statement on the applicant’s particulars of the technical and financial resources.28 Similarly, details of the applicant’s financial resources and technical advice available to the miner must be submitted with a mine permit application in New South Wales (Australia).29
Include information on proponent’s past mining practices and compliance history
[TAGS: Mine Permit Application; Content; Past Practices; History; Track Record; Compliance]
In BC, proponents are not required to provide details about their previous mining experience or history of compliance with applicable laws. Provincial guidance documents merely ask proponents to provide their “history, description and contact information” and “name of the firm [or] individual managing the project” in the mine permit application.30
Other jurisdictions demand much more information from proponents, such as details on available resources and technical expertise and past criminal or regulatory offences. For example:
- In New South Wales (Australia), applicants must submit details of their ‘environmental performance record’, including details of any convictions under environmental protection legislation or other relevant legislation in the five years immediately before the application is made, as well as any revoked or suspended previous approvals under environmental protection legislation.31
- Under US federal coal mining law, the applicant must submit a schedule listing all notices and final resolutions of violations of US laws “pertaining to air or water environmental protection incurred by the applicant in connection with any surface coal mining operation during the three-year period prior to the date of application”.32
- In New Mexico, applications must include a statement describing “any current or previous … mining permits in the United States held by the applicant and the permit identification and each pending application”.33 This allows the regulatory authority to assess the applicants’ previous experiences and performance at mines across the country. Applicants must also indicate whether they have ever “held a federal or state mining permit which, in the five-year period prior to the date of submission of the application, has been superseded or revoked or has had a mining bond or similar security deposited in lieu of bond forfeited and, if so, a brief explanation of the facts involved”.34
Require application fee proportional to cost of review and scale of project
[TAGS: Mine Permit Application, Content, Application Fee]
In BC, proponents are not required to pay an application fee when submitting a mine permit application. As such, the government does not recover the public funds expended on the review of mine permit applications. Mine permit application fees are legally mandated in numerous other jurisdictions, including the Yukon,35 New Brunswick,36 Minnesota,37 Montana,38 New Mexico,39 Oregon,40 and Sweden.41
In New Mexico, the legislation explicitly associates the application fee with the “actual or anticipated cost of reviewing, administering and enforcing the permit”.42 Similarly, in Oregon, the application fee must cover government costs to monitor compliance with the permit.43 To alleviate the potential financial burden of an application fee on proponents, US federal legislation provides that the regulatory authority may “develop procedures so as to enable the cost of the fee to be paid over the term of the permit”.44
Application fees should be determined by the scale and complexity of the proposed mine to account for the different government resources required to review more complex applications. Manitoba, for example, requires different application fees for different classes of mining projects. Class 2 mining developments (which include mines, other than pits and quarries, milling facilities, refineries, and smelters) are subject to a $5,000 application fee, whereas Class 3 mining developments (which include Potash mines and milling facilities) are subject to a $100,000 application fee.45 Oregon’s legislation also recognizes that application fees should reflect the complexity of the project and provides that where an application “requires extraordinary department resources because of concerns about slope stability or proximity to waters of the state or other environmentally sensitive areas, the applicant shall pay to the department an additional fee in an amount determined by the State Geologist to be adequate to cover the additional costs for staff and other related expenses”.46