On May 12, 2011, Mr. Serge Simard, Quebec's Minister for Natural Resources and Wildlife (the "Minister") presented Bill 14 titled An act respecting the development of mineral resources in keeping with the principles of sustainable development (the "Bill") which seeks to modify the Mining Act.1 The Bill followed consultations that were held with respect to Bill 79 in the fall of 2010.
In August 2011, special consultations and public hearings were held in relation to the Bill before the Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries, Energy and Natural Resources of the National Assembly (the "Committee"). Since the consultations, the Committee has studied the Bill in detail.
On November 29, 2011, the Minister provided the Committee with amendments (the "Amendments") to the Bill. It should be noted that one of its objectives of the Bill is to promote a form of development that is associated with Quebec communities and integrated into their environment.
The proposed Amendments to the Bill include:
Withdrawal of mining activities within an urbanisation perimeter, a residential areas that is incompatible with mining activities, or areas dedicated to recreational tourism or vacationing.
The Bill provides that staking, map designation, mine exploration and mine operations are withdrawn from any land included within an urbanisation perimeter or areas dedicated to vacationing.
The Amendments propose to withdraw from prospecting, mine exploration and mine operations, any mineral substance that forms part of the domain of the State included not only within an urbanisation perimeter or an area dedicated to vacationing, but also to areas dedicated to recreational tourism and residential areas that are incompatible with mining activity, as such are areas are defined in the Land Use Planning and Development Act.
At the same time as the Minister filed the Amendments, he also filed comments containing details on the definitions and methods of applying these provisions. The Minister provides some guidance to define the concept of "urbanization perimeter", "residential area that is incompatible with mining activities" and "areas dedicated to recreational tourism or vacationing".
According to the Amendments, a Regional County Municipality will have one (1) year from the date the Bill comes into force to amend its land use plan in order to establish, if it so wishes, a residential sector that is incompatible with mining activity and an area dedicated to recreational tourism or to vacationing.
The Amendments provide that the withdrawal from prospecting, exploration and mining operations or reserving to the State mineral substances that forms part of the domain of the State will be effective from the time that it is reproduced on maps maintained at the Office of the Registrar. Once such withdrawal is reproduced on these maps no lands can be added to the territory designated as being a residential sector incompatible with mining activities or an area dedicated to recreational tourism or vacationing for twenty (20) years.
The Bill also provides that the holder of an existing claim must obtain the authorization of the local municipality to carry out work within a territory on which mineral substances are withdrawn. If it does not obtain such an authorization, the Amendments allow the holder of a claim to retain the services of a mediator named by the parties, but whose fees are to be paid by the claim holder.
The Bill prevents the holder of an existing claim from instituting recourses against the State for any damages that it may suffer as a result of the failure to obtain an authorization from a local municipality. Moreover, the Amendments prevent the holder of a claim from taking legal action against any municipality for damages. However, the Amendments provide that the holder of a claim will have the right to obtain reimbursement from the State for expenses incurred for the execution of certain work carried out since October 24, 1988. In these circumstances, the holder must abandon its claim.
Government authorization, BAPE and approval of a mine restoration plan is required
Pursuant to environmental legislation that is currently applicable in Southern Quebec, an environmental impact assessment and public hearings before the Bureau d'audiences publiques en environnement ("BAPE") is required for metal and asbestos mine with a production capacity of 7,000 tonnes per day or more, for all uranium mines and for any other mine whose production capacity is 500 tonnes per day or more. In the territory covered by the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement an Environmental and social impact assessment and review procedure must be completed for any mining development
The Bill provides that the holder of a claim must proceed with public consultation before applying for a mining lease in accordance with a process controlled by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife.
Instead, the Amendments propose that all mining projects whether the construction or operation of a mineral treatment plant or the opening or operation of a mine, be subject to an Environmental impact assessment and review procedure, which includes consultation and public hearings before the BAPE without regard to the production threshold.
The Amendments provide that no mining lease can be concluded unless the claim holder has obtained approval of its mine restoration and rehabilitation and a Certificate of Authorization issued by the government after completing the Environmental impact assessment and review procedure.
Limits on the right of expropriation
The Amendments do not affect the provisions of the Bill allowing the holder of the mining right or the owner of mineral substances to acquire a property for the purposes of carrying out its exploration or operation work. However, the Amendments provide that the right of expropriation will apply only for the purpose of mine operation. Therefore, it will no longer be possible to expropriate for the purposes of a mine exploration.
Residential family property
The Amendments provide that a residential family property cannot be moved before the issuance of a mining lease.
It provides that the holder of a mining right that intends to acquire a residential family property must pay the fees related to professional services necessary to negotiate an agreement with the owner of the property up to a maximum amount representing 10% of the value of the property as set out in the municipal assessment role.
The current session of the National Assembly is scheduled to end on December 9. The government has indicated that it intends to adopt the Bill before that date.
1. R.S.Q., c. M-13.1.
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