Draft terms of reference for conducting a strategic assessment of thermal coal mining

1. Context

Thermal coal is the coal used in coal-fired electricity plants. Combustion of thermal coal produces approximately 40 percent of the world’s and ten percent of Canada’s electricity. Consequently, coal is one of the most significant sources of carbon emissions and air pollution, which have significant environmental and health impacts. This is why Canada has put in place regulations that require the phase out of traditional coal-fired electricity by 2030.

Canada is launching a strategic assessment under the Impact Assessment Act to solicit feedback on relevant policy considerations related to thermal coal mining and to consider the future of new thermal coal mine projects in Canada under federal review.

Section 95 of the Impact Assessment Act allows the Minister to appoint a committee to conduct a strategic assessment of any issue that is relevant to conducting impact assessments of designated projects or of a class of designated projects. Strategic assessments can provide direction on policy considerations, and guidance on how laws, regulations, and policies should be considered in an impact assessment. 

The strategic assessment will adhere to the provisions in the Impact Assessment Act, including the obligations to:

These terms of reference fulfill the obligation of the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to establish the mandate of the committee to undertake the strategic assessment of thermal coal mining.

Public comments on the draft terms of reference can be provided on or before August 28, 2020 to:

Strategic Assessment of Thermal Coal Mining
Environment and Climate Change Canada
351 St. Joseph Boulevard, 12th Floor
Gatineau, QC K1A 0H3

Email: ec.esemct-satcm.ec@canada.ca

2. Objectives

The strategic assessment of thermal coal mining will guide decision-makers on how new thermal coal mine projects will be considered under the Impact Assessment Act.

3. Scope of the strategic assessment of thermal coal mining

The strategic assessment will include, but not be limited to:

4. Approach to conducting the strategic assessment of thermal coal mining

A committee of government officials, led by Environment and Climate Change Canada in collaboration with the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, Natural Resources Canada and Global Affairs Canada, will conduct the strategic assessment of thermal coal mining.

In conducting the strategic assessment, the committee will:

5. Engagement

5.1 Engagement sessions

The committee will consult with all provinces and territories and will invite interested parties to at least two engagement sessions.

The committee will also convene at least two engagement sessions with stakeholders, which will include representatives from the mining industry and environmental non-governmental organizations.

These engagement sessions will inform the development of the strategic assessment of thermal coal mining by soliciting information, advice and feedback from key stakeholders.

5.2 Indigenous engagement

Recognizing the unique experiences of Indigenous Peoples with respect to the environment, the committee will seek their views and input. Engagement with Indigenous groups will be flexible and goal-oriented, and will seek to avoid duplicating other Indigenous engagement initiatives related to the Impact Assessment Act.

5.3 Public engagement

Members of the public will be invited to submit comments during the public comment periods following the publication of both the draft terms of reference and the draft strategic assessment of thermal coal mining. Members of the public will also be able to submit comments throughout the process to:

Strategic Assessment of Thermal Coal Mining
Environment and Climate Change Canada
351 St. Joseph Boulevard, 12th Floor
Gatineau, QC K1A 0H3

Email: ec.esemct-satcm.ec@canada.ca

As per the provisions of the Impact Assessment Act, the information that is used by the committee and the engagement sessions will be made available to the public on the Strategic Assessment of Thermal Coal Mining website.

6. Timelines

Preliminary timelines are as follow:

Category Timelines
Announcement of the strategic assessment of thermal coal mining December 2019
Release of the draft terms of reference for 30-day public comment period 30 July, 2020
Publication of the terms of reference September 2020
Establishing the committee September 2020
Committee meetings, engagement sessions with key stakeholders and continuous engagement with Indigenous groups September 2020-March 2021
Publication of the draft strategic assessment of thermal coal mining followed by a public comment period Spring 2021
Publication of the final strategic assessment of thermal coal mining Fall 2021
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