Environmental Assessment for Mining Activities

EA: Introduction and Background

Overview of Federal and Provincial EAs

EAs are the most widely used environmental tool in the mineral sector and are used to evaluate and mitigate environmental and social effects of a proposed activity before authorizing, modifying or rejecting it.

In Canada, both federal and provincial laws govern EAs. In BC, the first EA legislation was created in 1994 after extensive consultation with First Nations and the public. Without a similar consultation process, the 1994 act was replaced in 2002 with the current Environmental Act.

At the federal level, EAs are governed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) which was regarded as a rigorous process, but has recently been replaced with the controversial new CEAA 2012.

The new CEAA introduced legislation to coordinate provincial and federal EAs, so that one regulator is responsible for assessment. Further, where satisfied that a provincial EA would meet federal EA requirements, the federal authority may substitute the provincial EA for the federal one at the request of the province.

Taseko’s proposed Prosperity Mine at Fish Lake highlights the differences between the federal and provincial EA legislation. In this case, the mine was granted approval under the provincial EA process, but was denied through the federal process.

What remains to be determined is whether this new process of authorizing EAs is constitutional and adequately addresses all relevant aspects of a proposed project.

Details of BC’s EA process can be found here

Overview of BC’s EA Process

The provincial EA process occurs in two stages: pre-application and application review.

Under current legislation, time limits to review applications have been reduced significantly and cannot be extended at the request of the public or First Nations.

EA legislation needs to be updated to address these concerns over review time and allow the public to recover the heavy public costs for reviewing an EA; costs which the proponent does not currently cover.

BC Mining Issue: The cost for reviewing an EA can place a heavy burden on the public purse. Under BC law, there is no mandatory legal requirement to recover these costs from a mining company.

Fair Mining Best Practice:Recover costs incurred in reviewing an EA application and require the mining company to pay back any public funds expended in the EA review process.



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