Compliance and Enforcement in the Mining Sector

Overview of BC and Federal Law

Environmental Assessment Certificate

In BC, if mining companies do not comply with their Environmental Assessment Certificate or provincial and federal mining / environmental legislation, the Environmental Assessment Office may, for example, order that all activities cease, cancel the EA Certificate, or attach new conditions the EA Certificate.

The Auditor- General recently criticized the EAO for:

  • Being reactive rather than proactive;
  • Lacking compliance and enforcement programs to ensure compliance;
  • Failing to carry out formal site inspections; and
  • Failing to issue penalties or cancel EA Certificates.

Provincial Mining Laws and Permit Conditions

In BC, mining companies must comply with provisions outlined within the provincial Mineral Tenure Act and Mines Act. If a proponent violates any of these Acts, BC’s Chief Gold Inspector has the power to revoke the proponent’s Free Miner Certificate (FMC) thus effectively ending all mining operations.

Provincial Environmental Laws also require mining companies to comply with two primary pieces of provincial environmental legalization: Environmental Management Act (EMA) and the Water Act.
At the federal level, the federal environmental laws that apply to mines in BC include: Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA).

In 2012, Canada’s federal government severely amended the Fisheries Act. One of the major changes is a shift away from the protection of fish habitat to protection of fisheries.

Fisheries Act inspectors have broad powers to inspect any activity that may result in the alteration or disruption of fish habitat; while CEPA inspectors are granted powers to govern and inspect any place where toxic substances are located.

Unfortunately, as with BC’s environmental laws, enforcement provisions within these Acts are infrequently applied.


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