Recovery of Minerals

ERO number
019-4452
Notice type
Act
Act
Mining Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry
Notice stage
Decision
Decision posted
Comment period
October 7, 2021 - November 21, 2021 (45 days) Closed
Last updated

This consultation was open from:
October 7, 2021
to November 21, 2021

Decision summary

A decision was made to proceed with amending the Mining Act to support the recovery of minerals at current operating, closing or abandoned mines sites in Ontario through reprocessing of minerals, including critical minerals. Bill 13 contained amendments to the Mining Act in Schedule 12 and received Royal Assent on Thursday December 2, 2021. 

Decision details

Amendments have been made to the Mining Act to enable the creation of a regulatory pathway for mineral recovery projects, described as “Recovery and Remediation” under Part VII of the Mining Act.

Specifically, the Mining Act has been amended to: 

  • require a proponent submit an application to the Ministry that describes the proposed recovery activity, as well as the proposed remediation plan; 
  • provide the Director of Mine Rehabilitation with the authority to issue a permit and impose terms and conditions; 
  • provide the Director of Mine Rehabilitation with discretion to determine the form of financial assurance required commensurate to the project;
  • require the Director of Mine Rehabilitation to consider whether Aboriginal consultation has occurred in accordance with any prescribed requirements; and
  • provide the Director of Mine Rehabilitation with additional order-making authority such as stop-work, remedial or preventative orders at current operating, closed or abandoned mine sites. 

The amendments are intended to: 

  • Allow further remediation of the environment, public health and safety at mine sites to reduce liabilities. 
  • Create jobs and economic opportunities. 
  • Address environmental impacts associated with mine tailings and waste storage. 
  • Allow extraction of minerals to meet global needs to support the emerging green economy, while maintaining Ontario’s environmental practices. 

Comments received

Through the registry

2

By email

2

By mail

0
View comments submitted through the registry

Effects of consultation

We received four submissions providing comments regarding the proposed legislative amendment (2 via the ERO and 2 via email). A summary of the comments is as follows:

  • Neither for or against the proposal; however urged the government to use evidence-based decision making to demonstrate clear benefits to the public and to not subsidize “the negative cost of externalities”.
  • Concerns that the environmental effects of this permit have to be considered, as well as concern for the climate emergency.
  • Concerns about the lack of detail regarding the requirements, conditions, and terms for permit renewals.
  • Concerns about uncertainty regarding environmental effects related to disturbance and reprocessing of mining waste as well as potential downstream effects, including from transportation of the material.
  • Concerns as to whether the recovery permits would permit the import/export of mine wastes for reprocessing or whether new downstream effects could result should mine wastes be transported and move elsewhere.
  • Concern for the lack of an environmental assessment for mineral recovery projects.

In making a decision on the proposed legislative amendments, the ministry considered the comments that were received.

Some of the comments pertained to the lack of information regarding application requirements, terms and conditions, and environmental effects from recovery projects.

The legislative changes enable a regulatory pathway for recovery of minerals activity. Many of the details of the regulatory framework will be provided in regulations and, where necessary, operational policy and guidance. The ministry will consider the comments received as part of the development of the associated regulations.

Supporting materials

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Original proposal

ERO number
019-4452
Notice type
Act
Act
Mining Act, R.S.O. 1990
Posted by
Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry
Proposal posted

Comment period

October 7, 2021 - November 21, 2021 (45 days)

Proposal details

Mine tailings and waste have historically been viewed as having limited economic value. However, with emerging technologies and the global priority on critical minerals, there is growing interest from industry to extract value from and further recover minerals. The ministry notes that tailings and waste at current operating, closed or abandoned mine sites in Ontario can house valuable minerals, including critical minerals, that are drawing geopolitical and economic interest.     

Under the current Mining Act, a person cannot conduct extraction or reprocessing activities of tailings and mine waste for the purpose of sale, without filing a mine production closure plan covering all mine hazards on the site (beyond just the mine waste).

The ministry is proposing amendments to the Mining Act which would create a regulatory pathway for these projects to proceed without a full closure plan for the whole mine site. Instead, there would be an application-based permitting regime, where the applicant could obtain a permit for the reprocessing/recycling activities on the tailings or waste rock.

Specifically, the ministry is proposing to:

  • require a proponent submit an application to the Ministry that describes the proposed recovery activity, as well as the proposed remediation plan;
  • provide the Director of Mine Rehabilitation with the authority to issue a permit and impose terms and conditions;
  • provide the Director of Mine Rehabilitation with discretion to determine the form of financial assurance required commensurate to the project;
  • require the Director of Mine Rehabilitation to consider whether Aboriginal consultation has occurred in accordance with any prescribed requirements before a permit is issued; and
  • provide the Director of Mine Rehabilitation with additional order-making authority such as stop-work, remedial or preventative orders at current operating, closed or abandoned mine sites.

Without the proposed amendments, proponents that are interested in recovering minerals from mine tailings and waste are subject to requirements under the Mining Act to submit a closure plan and accompanying financial assurance. This results in companies making significant investments and acceptance of liabilities that are cost-prohibitive for these types of projects, making them uneconomical.

Closure plan requirements are very prescriptive and required contents are outlined in schedule 2 of O. Reg. 240/00. The requirements include many baseline studies and investigations as well as the requirement to demonstrate that rehabilitation (as defined) is in accordance with the Mine Rehabilitation Code. Mine production closure plans (prepared where there is the intent to sell), require a rehabilitation plan and financial assurance for all hazards on site.

The cost to develop a mine production closure plan varies, based on size, type of mine (underground vs open pit) and site-specific considerations.  The cost could vary from $250,000 to $500,000 per closure plan.

In lieu of a closure plan, the ministry would amend these requirements to require a project-specific remediation plan and financial assurance commensurate with the impacts from the proposed project. The ministry would provide for remediation to some standard to be determined but not necessarily the same as the Mine Rehabilitation Code. The recovery activity is expected to focus on only a portion of the mine site that is disturbed by the reprocessing activity, and a remediation plan would be required for the hazards the proponent creates or materially affects, not for the entire property.

  • The proposed changes are intended to: 
    • allow further remediation of the environment, public health and safety at mine sites to reduce liabilities;
    • Create jobs and economic opportunities.
    • Address environmental impacts associated with mine tailings and waste storage.
    • Allow extraction of minerals to meet global needs to support the emerging green economy, while maintaining Ontario’s environmental practices.

Comment

Commenting is now closed.

This consultation was open from October 7, 2021
to November 21, 2021

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