The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) and the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) have welcomed new government proposals to streamline national mineral development regulations under a new economic action plan.
“The mineral exploration and development industry needs an efficient regulatory regime that encourages investment by providing certainty and predictability,” said PDAC executive director Ross Gallinger. “We commend the federal government for its goal of a system that provides predictable and timely reviews, reduced duplication, strengthened environmental protection and enhanced Aboriginal consultation.”
The government’s plan argues that resource developers “have had to face an increasingly complicated maze of rules and bureaucratic reviews that has grown in a piecemeal fashion,” giving as an example a 19-month delay in environmental permitting for a C$400 million (US$403 million) Saskatchewan uranium project proposed by AREVA.
The plan estimates that Canada could see US$500 billion worth of investment in more than 500 resource projects over the coming 10 years.
Under the new proposals, the environmental review process would be consolidated under Canada’s Environmental Assessment Agency and its nuclear regulator, with maximum limits set out on the period available for review.
Decisions on whether to require an environmental impact assessment would take place within a maximum of 45 days; the assessments themselves would have a maximum of one year for completion; and state bodies would have a two-year maximum for reviewing findings. The proposals would also allow provincial government assessments to supplant those required at federal level.
Further measures include a shift to focus environmental assessments on major projects as opposed to smaller developments, and the imposition of monetary penalties for violation of assessment procedures.
The move also seeks integrate consultation with Canada’s aboriginal communities into the environmental assessment process, and provides funding to facilitate consultation with these groups.
The plan has met a degree of criticism in Canada, with some media reports arguing that it represents a way for the industry to escape coherent oversight.
“The end point of an assessment should be determined by whether the work is done, not by an arbitrary deadline,” said Green Party leader Elizabeth May. “It is just another way of undermining the process to the benefit of industry.”
MAC president Pierre Gratton said “We welcome the reforms as they will help make consultations with Aboriginal communities more effective.”
“Greater efficiency and coordination in the review process will not come at a cost to the environment,” he argued.