Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations: amendments to schedule 2
A review of effects on the environment of disposing mine waste in areas where there are water bodies with fish.
Amendments to Schedule 2 of the Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations (MDMER, formerly the Metal Mining Effluent Regulations) authorize the use of water frequented by fish for mine waste disposal. Water added to Schedule 2 of the MDMER is designated as a tailings impoundment area (TIA). A strategic environmental assessment was conducted and concluded that authorizing the deposit of mine waste in TIAs will result in adverse environmental effects, i.e., a loss of fish habitat. However, the adverse environmental effects will be offset by the implementation of a fish habitat compensation plan, and it is expected there will to be no net loss of fish habitat. Proponents must also submit an irrevocable letter of credit alongside the plan to cover the plan’s implementation costs, including all necessary remedial measures, if the plan’s purpose is not being achieved.
Before an amendment to Schedule 2 of the MDMER can be recommended, proponents must demonstrate that mine waste disposal in water frequented by fish is the most appropriate option from environmental, technical and socio-economic perspectives by conducting an assessment of alternatives for mine waste disposal for consideration by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC). The assessment of alternatives should be prepared in accordance with ECCC’s Guidelines for the Assessment of Alternatives for Mine Waste Disposal and should conclude that the preferred option protects and advances the public interest, as per the Cabinet Directive on Regulatory Management (CDRM).
The assessment of alternatives takes into consideration concerns raised by local communities, Indigenous Peoples and stakeholders. It must also demonstrate that the chosen option offers the greatest overall benefit to current and future generations of Canadians, as per the CDRM.
The regulatory amendment process ensures adverse effects are minimized as the MDMER require proponents to develop and implement a fish habitat compensation plan, which contributes to the 2016 to 2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy’s long-term goal of having “Pristine Lakes and Rivers - Clean and healthy lakes and rivers support economic prosperity and the well-being of Canadians”.
Proponents are responsible to undertake measures to monitor the plan’s implementation. The implementation of each fish habitat compensation plan and the progress towards achieving its purpose will be assessed according to a schedule described in the plan. If the plan’s purpose is not being achieved, section 27.1 of the MDMER requires proponents to inform the Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada, and to identify and implement all necessary remedial measures. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans will monitor the plan’s implementation to verify the extent to which the plan achieves its purpose.
Given that the MDMER are regulations made pursuant to the Fisheries Act enforcement personnel would, when verifying compliance with the MDMER, act in accordance with the Compliance and Enforcement Policy for the Habitat Protection and Pollution Prevention Provisions of the Fisheries Act. Verification of compliance with the regulations and the Act would include, among other inspection activities, site visits, sample analysis, review of fish habitat compensation plans and related reports.
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