BC Mining Issue:BC mining law does not ensure that an adequate progressive reclamation program is carried out at all mines.
Fair Mining Best Practice:Enact clear legal requirements for reclamation at all stages of a mine’s life cycle and set a clearly defined schedule for when reclamation will be completed.
In mining terminology, reclamation is used to describe all rehabilitation and restoration activities undertaken to remedy environmental damage caused by mining activities.
Reclamation breaks down into three broad categories:
- Site and Progressive Reclamation,
- Reclamation Standards, and
- Reclamation Monitoring and Reporting.
Site and Progressive Reclamation
Site reclamation refers to all activities undertaken to restore areas impacted by mining activities; while Progressive reclamation refers to reclamation activities that are carried out along with mining activities rather than being left until mine closure.
Progressive reclamation is essential for successful reclamation to occur. This process is required under BC’s environmental laws but not currently required under BC mining law. Greater certainty and clear requirements, such as legislating a defined reclamation completion schedule, are therefore required to ensure the effectiveness of reclamation.
When reclaiming a mine site in BC, the miner must meet certain reclamation standards outlined in the Health, Safety and Reclamation Code for Mines in BC (HSR Code). These standards include:
- Watercourses and water quality
- Disposal of chemicals and re-agents
- Post closure land use
Detailed descriptions of each reclamation standard can accessed <here>
Under BC law, the mine manager is responsible for ensuring that all aspects of reclamation are fulfilled.
Reclamation Monitoring and Reporting
After a mine closes, the mine site needs to be monitored, as significant environmental issues can arise well after the mine closes. BC law already requires that mining companies monitor their closed mine sites if there is a potential for future environmental impacts, and requires that mining companies submit reports to the government. Although this is a good start, there are issues and gaps in the current legislation.
Some of ways the current legislation could be tightened:
- Environmental Audits of closed mines would ensure that mining companies are meeting their obligations.
- Posting reports online, as is practiced in Alberta, would allow the public easy access and increase transparency.
- Closed mines should be visited regularly, and mining companies should regularly submit environmental monitoring reports.