Performance of Environmental Assessment
BC Mining Issue:BC’s EA Act provides inadequate guidance to government decision-makers reviewing EA’s.
Fair Mining Best Practice:Enact clearly defined and substantive decision-making criteria and guiding principles for decision-makers to follow.
The importance of the “Purpose” provision of the EA Act was highlighted in a judicial review of a provincial government decision approving the reopening of the Tulsequah Mine in 1998. In that decision, the Court held that the EA review did not adequately consider the sustainability of the Tlingit First Nations’ land-based way of life, and was therefore contrary to the promotion of sustainability required by the purpose of EA law.
EA Purpose, Guiding Principles and Review
BC’s current EA law lacks a clearly defined “Purpose” provision and decision-making criteria. Having such criteria within the EA review process allows government decision-makers to consider principles such as environmental and economic sustainability and the open participation of the public, and First Nations, as an essential part of the review process.
Alberta’s Environmental Protection Act recognizes the value and importance of clearly defined purpose provisions
Recommended solutions for gaps in BC’s EA law also include: Stakeholder Input and Evaluation of Effects.
Under current BC EA law, the Minister is not required to take into account the working group’s recommendations, First Nations’ positions, or public opinion in deciding whether to approve an EA and issue and EA certificate.
BC’s EA law should require that public and First Nations’ comments be taken into account when making decisions on EA applications. Implementing these changes is especially important for First Nations, as their environmental and cultural concerns are often different from mining companies and government officials. Requiring, for example, the incorporation of traditional knowledge in the EA decision-making process, will help to ensure that this process is equitable and socially responsible.
Traditional knowledge is the accumulated body of knowledge, observations and understandings about the environment, and about the living relationships between all beings within the environment. It is held as part of the identity and way of life for First Nations people, who also hold that the same is true for everyone because all human beings depend on the same environment.
Evaluation of Effects
- Prediction of adverse effects, and
- The evaluation of these effects.
However, BC law does not outline the methodology for assessment or how these effects should be categorized, measured, or assessed. Also, BC law also only requires mining companies to consider the direct effects of a proposed project – there is no legal obligation requiring the consideration of indirect effects.
This narrow scope fails to evaluate the full impacts of the project and should be remedied by legislating the assessment of cultural, social & economic effects, cumulative effects and the mitigation of adverse effects.