Minister Wilkinson Provides Update at PDAC on Federal Initiatives to Improve Regulatory Processes for Major Projects
March 7, 2023 Toronto, Ontario Natural Resources Canada
Canada’s abundant natural resources and its ability to develop them — sustainably and inclusively — is a significant comparative advantage in the global transition to a net-zero economy. We have a generational opportunity to create prosperity and high-quality jobs for Canadians and foster economic reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples — from coast to coast to coast.
By the same token, the Government of Canada recognizes that natural resources and other major projects can have significant adverse environmental effects and that the rights of Indigenous Peoples must be recognized and respected. That is why it has developed robust federal regulatory and permitting processes that are critical to ensuring that environmental protection, partnership with Indigenous Peoples and economic development can move forward together.
Improving regulatory and permitting processes has once again emerged as a central and important theme for Canada’s minerals and mining sector and major projects of all kinds at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) 2023 Convention. This was also a theme of the June 2022 PDAC Convention, where Minister Wilkinson spoke about the Government of Canada’s efforts to improve the efficiency of regulatory and permitting processes where possible, including the recently launched Regional Energy and Resource Tables. Minister Wilkinson reiterated the view that, in the context of critical minerals and the clean technologies they enable, if Canada is to achieve its climate objectives, it cannot take an average of 12–15 years to open a mine.
Over the past eight months, the Government of Canada has made progress in numerous ways:
In September 2022, Minister Guilbeault announced the release of a new framework under IAAC to Guide inclusion of Indigenous Knowledge in Impact Assessments, which was developed in partnership with Indigenous Peoples.
The 2022 Fall Economic Statement announced up to $1.28 billion over six years, starting in 2022–23, to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC), the Canada Energy Regulator (CER), the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and 10 other federal departments to increase their capacity and improve the efficiency of assessments to respond to a growing number of major projects being proposed.
As this funding is being deployed, the Government of Canada is in the process of reviewing Canada’s regulatory framework to identify opportunities for advancing clean growth projects in a timely and predictable manner, while safeguarding the interests of Canadians, protecting the environment, and respecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples.
In December 2022, when Minister Wilkinson launched Canada’s Critical Minerals Strategy he highlighted the work of the Critical Minerals Centre of Excellence (CMCE), which acts as a concierge service that assists industry stakeholders in navigating federal regulatory and permitting systems — further facilitating the development of critical minerals projects and value chains. The CMCE will help proponents identify the right network of contacts for technical assistance with regulatory processes and work collaboratively with regulatory teams to further examine Canada’s mining-related regulatory frameworks and participate in federal regulatory reviews with a focus on critical minerals.
Canada’s Critical Minerals Strategy also includes a Northern Regulatory Initiative that will support and expand opportunities for collaborative dialogue among Indigenous, territorial and federal partners and industry in various regulatory and decision-making processes.
In February 2023, the Government of Canada launched a Call for Applications for a new group of members to join the Minister of Environment and Climate Change’s Advisory Council on Impact Assessment, which provides independent and objective advice and recommendations on issues related to the implementation of impact assessments along with regional and strategic assessments under the Impact Assessment Act. Applications will be accepted until April 11, 2023.
In February 2023, Minister Wilkinson sent a letter to the Board of Directors of the CER identifying key priorities as it delivers on its mandate under the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, including ensuring that all existing regulatory requirements and timelines are met and extensions are only granted under necessary circumstances.
Nine jurisdictions have now joined the Regional Energy and Resource Tables, through which the Government of Canada is working with provinces and territories, Indigenous groups, industry, unions and other partners to identify and accelerate opportunities to transform Canada’s energy and resource sectors for a net-zero future. This includes working toward the alignment of processes in support of permitting and regulatory requirements for clean growth projects. Place-based work plans are being developed and will include initiatives to align regulatory approaches.
Additionally, since January 2022, four mining sector projects have been given the green light under IAAC review: the Marathon Palladium Project, Valentine Gold Project, James Bay Lithium Mine Project and Lynn Lake Gold Project. The Government of Canada decided to say no to one project in the mining sector — Sukunka Coal Mine Project — as a result of its significant adverse environmental effects that could not be mitigated. IAAC is also conducting several regional assessments including in the Ring of Fire and St. Lawrence River areas along with Offshore Wind Development in Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia.
The Government of Canada continues to work with all partners to establish Canada as the global supplier of choice for clean energy in a net-zero world — ensuring a prosperous and clean future for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
“Canada’s robust permitting process is already ahead of many of our global peers with respect to environmental protection and Indigenous consultation — and even with respect to timelines. However, there is more work to do. The Government of Canada is working with partners across the country to improve the efficiency of regulatory and permitting processes in a manner that is consistent with reconciliation and our ambitious climate and nature objectives.”
The Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson
Minister of Natural Resources
The Government of Canada is investing up to $3.8 billion into its Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy to increase the supply of responsibly sourced resources and support the development of domestic and global value chains for the green and digital economy. Over $344 million of this funding is supporting the following five new programs and initiatives:
○ Critical Minerals Technology and Innovation Program
○ Critical Minerals Geoscience and Data Initiative
○ Global Partnerships Program
○ Northern Regulatory Initiative
○ Renewal of the Critical Minerals Centre of Excellence
Last year at COP15 in Montreal, Canada founded the Sustainable Critical Minerals Alliance — along with Australia, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — to drive the global uptake of environmentally sustainable and socially inclusive and responsible mining, processing and recycling practices and responsible critical minerals supply chains.
On March 6, 2023, the Government of Canada announced that the environmental mitigation measures proposed for the Lynn Lake Gold Project in Manitoba provide a sustainable path forward for the project to proceed. The Lynn Lake Gold Project is the fourth mining project that has been approved following the completion of a robust federal assessment process in the last year. The other mines are the James Bay Lithium Mine Project, the Marathon Palladium Project and the Valentine Gold Project.
The Impact Assessment Agency of Canada is currently conducting 46 assessments across the country with 20 of those in the mining sector.
The minerals sector employs 665,000 people in Canada and contributed $125 billion to our economy in 2021.
- Regional Energy and Resource Tables
- Call for Applications: Minister of Environment and Climate Change’s Advisory Council on Impact Assessment
- The Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy
- Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan
- Critical Minerals Centre of Excellence
- Indigenous Natural Resource Partnerships program
Natural Resources Canada
Office of the Minister of Natural Resources
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