Proposed Coal Mining Effluent Regulations: overview

The Government of Canada is committed to preventing and managing pollution from industrial sectors.

Effluent from coal mines in Canada can be a source of pollution that harms aquatic life and specifically fish and fish habitat. The evidence of environmental effects is clear and Canada is moving to address the issue. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) is developing Coal Mining Effluent Regulations under the Fisheries Act. These Regulations will reduce the risks to fish and fish habitat by limiting levels of harmful substances in coal mining effluent. Once in place, the regulations will apply to the 28 existing coal mines in Canada and to all future coal mine expansions and new coal mine projects.

The Regulations will implement national effluent quality standards for selenium, nitrate and suspended solids as well as requirements related to pH and toxicity. The Regulations will also set requirements for monitoring, reporting and record keeping, including environmental effects monitoring.

Status

As these are important Regulations, ECCC has carried out four rounds of consultations with industry, Indigenous groups, environmental non-governmental organizations and provinces since 2017, and is planning the release of an additional consultation paper on the proposed approach in the fall of 2021.

The proposed approach will include the establishment of effluent quality standards for deleterious substances of concern, including selenium. Naturally occuring in the earth’s crust, selenium can be released in the environment from natural and human activities. One of the main sources of concern is coal mining. Although essential to aquatic life at low levels, selenium can cause harm in high concentrations and when there is long-term exposure. In addition to an effluent standard, ECCC will consult on a proposal to include in the Regulations a requirement to provide a status report on the selenium effluent quality standard 5 years after promulgation, and a requirement for a review of the Regulations as a whole 10 years after promulgation that will take into account the results provided by environmental effects monitoring and will also consider advances in selenium removal technologies. The goal will be to consider the results of those reviews and then propose amendments to the Regulations as needed.

In addition to the Regulations, the proposed approach will also ensure that when new or expanded coal mining projects are subject to a federal environmental or impact assessment, the assessment will include consideration of the site-specific receiving environment in order to consider the environmental impacts that might be associated with the proposed mine assuming it adheres to the proposed selenium effluent quality standard.

The proposed Regulations should be published in the Canada Gazette, Part I in the summer of 2022, and should be final in 2023.

Stay informed

This section will be updated with details on how to stay informed on the proposed Coal Mining Effluent Regulations.

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Related information

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Environment and Climate Change Canada
Regulatory Development and Analysis Section
Mining and Processing Division
351 boul. St-Joseph, 11th floor
Gatineau, QC K1A 0H3
Email: ec.ermc-cmrd.ec@canada.ca

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