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Mine policy met with skepticism

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Aug 02/02) - The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development says it has stringent new policies to strengthen federal standards for mine site reclamation.

DIAND unveiled its mine site reclamation policy for the Northwest Territories on Monday. A similar policy guide was also announced for Nunavut.

Under the new policy, mining companies must include a mine closure and reclamation plan, and put up a cash deposit before going into operation.

The security bond must also remain beyond the control of the mining company, although the bond can be readjusted if the company begins its reclamation process over the course of the mine's lifetime.

Nonetheless, some critics say the new policy doesn't go nearly far enough.

"One of the biggest concerns with this is that there is no avenue to actually implement this in anyway," said Kevin O'Reilly, research director for the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee.

"The policy has been provided to the water boards, but (DIAND Minister Robert Nault) did not chose to use his authority to provide it as legally binding policy direction."

O'Reilly pointed to a paragraph in the policy manual that states DIAND will merely "facilitate discussions between the various regulatory bodies" -- such as the Mackenzie Valley and NWT and Nunavut water boards -- "to promote the co-ordination of financial security obligations."

Water boards have the jurisdictional power to determine the amount of security in water licences and land-use permits.

He also criticized the policy because it only affects new and existing mines, and does not cover abandoned or orphaned mines, nor prospecting or mineral or gas exploration.

CARC had previously recommended that DIAND cover all these areas before the new policy was drafted. O'Reilly said the government needs to do more if they wish to restore the public's confidence.

"This policy has been in development for more than 10 years," said O'Reilly. "In those 10 years, Colomac, Giant, BYG, and Faro, Yukon, all went bankrupt.

"We know many other mines that are currently licenced

do not have full security set aside, so why did it take 10 years for this department to come up with this policy and there's no way to actually implement it."

North Slave Metis Alliance's lands and resources manager, Bob Turner, said he was disappointed that the new policy doesn't contain any references to restoring lost wildlife habitat at mine sites.

"There is going to be lost habitat, it's a known fact, and at the present time there isn't really anything to compensate for it," said Turner.

Rick Meyers, in charge of DIAND's mineral resources directorate, defended the new policy by pointing to recent successes in acquiring full security deposits from mining companies in the North.

"Some of the provisions, like 100 per cent security, we've been using those parameters and principles for the last several years," said Meyers. "Particularly in the case of BHP and Diavik, we have full security in place for both those operations, and any other new mines that go through the process will be faced with the same thing."