Mine closure, reclamation and monitoring

Information about the legislation and regulations related to mine closure.

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Mining process in Nunavut flowchart
Text alternative for: Mining process in Nunavut

Phase 1: Prospecting and exploration

  1. Use the Nunavut Map Selection (NMS) system to acquire a licence to prospect
  2. Select mineral claims using NMS
  3. Do your exploration activities require a land use permit or water license?
  4. No: Perform work not requiring these permits on your mineral claims
  5. Yes: Submit your project proposal to Nunavut
    1. Planning Commission (NPC) for conformity determination, which will be completed within 45 days.
  6. Go to Land Use Planning flowchart
  7. Project conforms
  8. Apply to Crown-Indigenous Relations Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) Lands Administration for land use permit and to Nunavut Water Board (NWB) for water licence related to exploration work
  9. Go to Water Licence flowchart
  10. Receive land use permit and water licence
  11. Perform work on your mineral claim
  12. Go to Phase 2: Advanced exploration and mine development

Phase 2: Advanced exploration and mine development

  1. Apply to CIRNAC Mining Recorder's Office (MRO) to convert your mineral claims with sufficient work leases
  2. Apply to CIRNAC Lands for your mine project's land use permit, and to Nunavut Water Board (NWB) for water licence related to mine development and operation
  3. Submit your mine project proposal to Nunavut Planning Commission (NPC) to begin the impact assessment process
  4. Go to Impact Assessment flowchart
  5. Nunavut Impact Review Board (NIRB) issues a Project Certificate
  6. Go to Phase 3: Production

Phase 3: Production

  1. Permitted and licensed activities at your mine site, including progressive reclamation activities, may begin
  2. CIRNAC field inspectors, IPGs, and other regulators make periodic site visits to monitor and enforce permit terms and conditions
  3. Draft abandonment and remediation plan is prepared prior to planned closure
  4. Production operations cease
  5. Go to Phase 4: Closure and reclamation

Phase 4: Closure and reclamation

  1. NWB approves your final abandonment and remediation plan
  2. Post-closure monitoring and enforcement inspections and financial security review take place
  3. Final closure inspection prior to issuance of letters of clearance for land use permit and water licence
  4. Final review of financial security and release of funds to you as the proponent
  5. Abandonment of mine site

Mine closure

Economic conditions or operational requirements may require your mine to shut down temporarily. The final closure of your mine may take place when the ore reserves have been mined out or are no longer economically feasible to mine. Wastes and tailings must be managed for any type of closure in a way that minimizes long-term maintenance and monitoring.

Preventing toxic leachate from entering territorial waters is a primary concern of waste management, particularly after a mine closure. The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, administered by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), has identified a list of 'deleterious elements': substances considered toxic if released into the environment in certain quantities and under certain conditions.

Guidelines and standards have been developed under the act for the treatment, storage and release of deleterious substances into the environment. These standards are incorporated in the terms and conditions of licences, permits, and other project approvals from regulators.

Your project will be subject to a post-closure monitoring program which includes the conditions stipulated on land use permits, land leases, mineral leases, water licences, and project certificates. Post-closure monitoring reports must be submitted to both the Nunavut Water Board (NWB) and ECCC. Regulatory inspections by Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) may occur at any time during mine operation or after closure. Monitoring policies for projects on Inuit-Owned Land (IOL) are set by the relevant Regional Inuit Association (RIA).

Closure and reclamation plans

Your mine's closure and reclamation plan should allow for adjustments as the life of the mine progresses, to adapt to new or improved technologies and methods or changes to environmental regulations. It should also allow for progressive reclamation to take place wherever possible while the mine is still in operation, and include measures to be taken in the event of a temporary closure, as detailed in the Care and Maintenance terms and conditions of your project's water licence.

Your company will continue to be responsible for the mine site after production ceases, including the remediation of any environmental complications which may develop. If your project or mine is sold, these responsibilities are carried over to the new owners.

Reclamation and closure-related financial security

The Mine Site Reclamation Policy for Nunavut applies to operating or closed mines in the territory with clearly identified owners and/or operators. Orphaned or abandoned mine sites are managed separately, under the federal government's Contaminated Sites Policy Framework.

Mine site reclamation plans must reflect the principles of sustainable development, including the "polluter pays" principle. As part of the regulatory process, you must show that your company can support the costs of reclamation and closure. Existing mining operations are also held accountable for their reclamation and closure liabilities.

Projects on IOL may have requirements for reclamation set out by the relevant RIA in addition to those required by NIRB, NWB, or federal regulators.

Financial security

Financial security requirements for reclamation and closure will be set out in your project's water licence and/or land lease. This financial security is legally held by the Minister of Northern Affairs. However, if a portion of your project is located on IOL, part of your security may be assigned to the appropriate RIA under a security management agreement. These agreements are implemented on a case by case basis and set the terms under which your security is held.

They can include terms such as:

The financial security required from your company is required to be equal to the total outstanding reclamation liability for all lands and water bodies on your mine site. Your security estimate should be based on the cost of having the necessary reclamation work done by a third-party contractor if your company is unable to do so.

The standard model used for estimating your security costs in Nunavut is the RECLAIM 7.0 model, developed by CIRNAC, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and the Lands and Waters Boards of the Mackenzie Valley. More information on RECLAIM can be found on the Government of the Northwest Territories' website.

Abandonment and restoration plan

As part of your project's feasibility study, your company will develop both an interim and a final abandonment and restoration plan, which should include a detailed estimate of reclamation liability based on third-party contractor rates using the RECLAIM model (or an equivalent model). These plans should include an evaluation of your project's risks and hazards, such as acid generation potential of the proposed tailings sites or risk of slope erosion, to determine reclamation procedures and re-vegetation for disturbed areas.

The interim abandonment and restoration (A&R) plan must be submitted with your company's applications for surface leases, so that abandonment and progressive reclamation activities can be planned for each phase of an operation. A conceptual A&R plan is also a required part of your water licence application. NWB encourages these plans to implement progressive reclamation and abandonment, and a phased-in approach to accommodating new studies and incorporating new technology.

Your water licence will set out the schedules for submitting interim and final closure plans, generally 1 year following licence issuance for the interim plan, and 1 year prior to starting reclamation for the final closure plan. If NWB is not satisfied that long-term degradation of the environment can be prevented or mitigated with existing restoration technology, it will not issue a water licence.

Any studies your company conducts for the purpose of evaluating reclamation methods should be outlined in the plan, along with a schedule for completion, prior to the start of reclamation work. Your plan should identify various remediation options for different circumstances, and should identify areas and facilities used during mine operations which must be reclaimed at the end of the life of the project, including but not limited to:

Based on the A&R plan, NWB, in consultation with CIRNAC and the land owner, will consider the costs of closure, site restoration, and any ongoing costs for monitoring or other measures required to be taken after mine closure. Once this consultation process is completed, NWB will set the amount of the security deposit required for your project.

For large-scale projects, your company may be able to post the required security in phases. In a phased approach the total reclamation cost is broken down into costs for various project components, and portions are posted prior to each of the components being initiated. The terms of these phased postings of security, including dates, required amounts and type, will be explicitly set out in your water licence.

Over the course of operations at your company's mine, you must provide NWB with regular updates of estimated reclamation costs. These updates may include costs of cataloguing and mapping of disturbed areas, detailed plans for the restoration of specific sites or infrastructure, or methods to minimize contaminant loadings and acid mine drainage.

You must demonstrate that the proposed restoration treatments and your progressive reclamation plans in the project's A&R plan meet the standards set in your water licence before long-term maintenance and monitoring begin. An assessment by CIRNAC inspectors to determine the optimal abandoned condition and an evaluation of residual impacts which may persist after abandonment are also required.

In addition, issuing authorities will require you to submit a monitoring program proposal, and will require an indication from the project operators of a commitment to implement the monitoring program for a sufficient length of time after the termination of the operation. This post-closure monitoring program will measure the effectiveness of reclamation work on your site. It should begin at the same time as the reclamation work so that any deficiencies which might lead to longer term monitoring requirements can be corrected.

If you are operating a uranium or thorium mine that is closing temporarily or permanently, you are required under the Uranium Mines and Mills Regulations, administered by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, to obtain a licence for suspension, cessation, and/or decommissioning of your mine.

The Commissioner's Land Regulations have provisions governing the use of Commissioner's lands. They also provide alternatives for their reclamation. Similarly, there are municipal by-laws which govern the use and reclamation of municipal lands.

Final plan of land use

Under the Territorial Land Use Regulations (TLUR), a certified final plan of land use during your operations must be submitted to CIRNAC's land use engineer at least 60 days before:

If you will be unable to submit your final plan in that timeframe, you may make a written request for an extension of up to 60 days from the land use permit issuer.

This final plan is used to calculate the actual number of hectares used in your operations, to determine payable land use fees. Before a land use permit is issued, terms and conditions which specifically address proposed reclamation measures must be set in this final plan. A security deposit, not exceeding $100,000, may be required by the land use engineer.

If your final plan does not meet the requirements in the TLUR, the land use engineer will notify you, as the project operator, and you will have 3 weeks after receipt of the notice to resubmit a plan that is in compliance with the regulations.

Mine access points

The territorial Mine Health and Safety Regulations require all mine openings to be secured at all times. The federal land use regulations, TLUR and Territorial Lands Regulations (TLR), also stress the importance of surface reclamation and stability. WSCC inspectors may require all mine openings to be filled, fenced, kept stable or otherwise made safe on temporary closure or final abandonment of works. This is to secure public safety and to prevent any deposit of waste through ongoing seepage.

Additional requirements for mine openings and access points may be set out in your water licence, or in the terms and conditions on your project certificate.

Revegetation

Under the TLUR, the operator of a mine must return the surface of the mineral grant to as near its original state as possible. In addition to any necessary contouring and stabilization of bare ground, some cultivation and fertilization may be required. Revegetation plans will be reviewed by regulatory agencies during their evaluation of your abandonment and restoration plan.

Buildings and equipment

Under the TLR, all buildings and equipment may be removed from the site within 3 months of the permanent abandonment of a mine site, provided there are no arrears of rent or taxes on the lease.

Any remaining buildings or equipment on the mine site after this 3 month period will be considered forfeit. They will be appraised by the Crown and offered for sale, first at public auction and then by private sale. If your lease was in arrears for its rent or taxes, that amount will be deducted from any proceeds of sale and the remaining amount will be returned to you.

Explosives

Unused explosives at the mine site must be removed or disposed of according to regulations, unless permission to leave the unused explosives at the site has been granted by the Chief Inspector of Mines of the WSCC.

Any storage or transportation of explosives, whether surface or underground, must be executed in accordance with procedures laid out in the relevant legislation and/or permits.

Public notice

There is no legislative requirement to notify the public respecting mine closures or the closure of any advanced exploration mining works. However, your mine's A&R plan, and other information or studies submitted to NWB with the application for the water licence, will be available to the public on the NWB registry and may be discussed during public meetings and hearings.

Similarly, the surface land authority may require a notice of abandonment or closure from the project operator to be a part of the final plan. Environmental assessment authorities may require public notice on closure before they make decisions.

Closure reporting requirements

An application for the cancellation of your water licence may be made after the completion of the post-closure monitoring period following your mine's final closure. This application must set out the reason(s) for the cancellation and include a description of mitigation measures which have been taken.

For any forfeiture of surface land rights, a notice of discontinuance must be provided to CIRNAC's land use engineer at least 10 days before the closure or abandonment of your mining operation.

For the monitoring of impacts of effluent deposits on the environment, the Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations of the Fisheries Act require you as the owner or operator of a mine to report any stoppage of commercial operation of the mine. You are also required to report any permanent or temporary closure or intended closure of the mine to both the NWB and to an authorization officer within a specific time.

As the holder of surface rights, you are required to notify the Chief Inspector of Mines within 60 days of and at least 30 days before the anticipated closure or abandonment of the mine.

You must also submit a final plan of land use for the project to a CIRNAC land use engineer, in duplicate, within 60 days after the day of completion of the land use operation, or the expiry of the permit, whichever comes first.

If the closure is not final, updated operation and safety plans must be submitted before any work at the mine site can resume.

Inspection requirements

Post-operation inspections of your project's site by CIRNAC's land use engineer are mandatory under the TLUR and the TLR, to ensure that your permit or lease conditions are being met. Your commitment to monitoring proper site restoration is also required before a letter of clearance is issued.

The land use engineer will issue a letter of clearance after their final inspection if they are satisfied that all terms and conditions have been met. Without this clearance, you as the rights holder will continue to be liable for any obligations arising from the terms and conditions of the rights issued under the TLUR.

An inspection by CIRNAC inspectors may be required before the final cancellation of your water licence, and any release of the financial security held by the Crown which would take place at the completion of the remediation plan or of the long-term monitoring period.

The Chief Inspector of Mines may require specific measures to be taken at closure for the protection of the public, such as sealing mine access points or installing fencing.

Release of financial security

All items listed on an A&R plan must be addressed before a letter of clearance can be obtained and the security deposits returned on closure of the mine. Inspectors will verify that the elements of the reclamation plan have been executed before any portions of security deposits are returned. Some of the financial security is held until completion of the long-term monitoring period.

The total security amount can be returned in phases if such terms are included in the water licence. For projects with security management agreements, the amounts allocated to the Crown and the RIA are set out in the water licence, and are returned to the proponent according to the terms of the agreement between the Crown and RIA.

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