Tailings impoundment areas
The Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations authorize deposits of mine waste (such as waste rock, tailings and effluent) into a tailings impoundment area.
It is expected that water bodies frequented by fish shall be avoided to the extent practicable for the long-term disposal of mine waste; and that mine waste shall be managed to ensure the long-term protection of Canada's terrestrial and aquatic environment.
Schedule 2 of the Regulations lists water bodies designated as tailings impoundment areas. A water body is added to that Schedule through a regulatory amendment.
Process to amend Schedule 2 of the Regulations
Proposals to amend Schedule 2 of the Regulations must meet various requirements before the Minister of the Environment can recommend the amendment to the Governor in Council. It is the proponent’s responsibility to:
- Identify all waterbodies impacted by the mine waste disposal, confirm the presence or absence of fish in these waterbodies, provide the methodology used to document the presence or absence of fish, and provide information related to the connectivity of these waterbodies to other waterbodies frequented by fish. Please note that Environment and Climate Change Canada will make a determination as to whether a waterbody is considered a water frequented by fish based on the information provided by the proponent and in consultation with Fisheries and Oceans Canada;
- Develop an Assessment of Alternatives for mine waste disposal in accordance with Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Guidelines for the Assessment of Alternatives for Mine Waste Disposal;
- Develop a Fish Habitat Compensation Plan to offset the loss of fish habitat resulting from the disposal of mine waste in waters frequented by fish. The Fish Habitat Compensation Plan must comply with the requirements of section 27.1 of the Regulations and Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s Policy for Applying Measures to Offset Adverse Effects on Fish and Fish Habitat Under the Fisheries Act; and
- Participate in public and Indigenous consultations on the proposed addition of water frequented by fish to Schedule 2 of the Regulations. These consultations are initiated when the Assessment of Alternatives report and Fish Habitat Compensation Plan have been reviewed in consideration of Environment and Climate Change Canada, as well as Fisheries and Oceans Canada policies and guidelines.
Providing this information during an Impact Assessment can reduce the time required for the regulatory amendment process under the Regulations.
Environment and Climate Change Canada is responsible for preparing the regulatory package and associated documentation required to amend Schedule 2 of the Regulations. The typical timelines associated with the regulatory amendment process vary between 12 and 24 months following consultations (Figure 1). However, the application of the policy on the Streamlining the Approvals Process for Metal Mines with Tailings Impoundment Areas allows the approval time to be shortened to five or six months for publication in the Canada Gazette, Part II, if conditions described in the policy are satisfied.
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