Canada: Splitting The Mining Regulations For The Northwest Territories And Nunavut

A proposal is underway to create a separate set of mining regulations for each of Nunavut and Northwest Territories.

At present, Northwest Territories and Nunavut Mining Regulations, enacted under the federal Territorial Lands Act, govern many aspects of mining on Crown lands in those two Territories. These Regulations govern royaly payments, licencing, prospecting permits, mineral claims, mineral leases, etc.

The Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development is proposing to split the existing Regulations in two, resulting in the Northwest Territories Mining Regulations and the Nunavut Mining Regulations. Part of the motivation for the split is to prepare the legal foundation for the NWT devolution, scheduled for April 1, 2014. Another reason is to facilitate implementation of a new online mineral tenure acquisition system in Nunavut (scheduled for November 1, 2014), to replace the current process of acquiring mineral claims by physical staking on the ground. The two new federal Regulations (very similar in tenour) are expected to come into force on April 1, 2014, and their publication on June 29, 2013 ushered in a 60-day period for stakeholder feedback, which ended on August 28. Responses received are now under study by the Department.

Most of the changes contemplated by the proposed new Regulations are administrative in nature, such as:

  • Deregulating forms to allow greater flexibility to make adjustments;
  • Using clear, modern regulatory language, clarifying definitions and the wording of some provisions,
  • Repealing some obsolete provisions;
  • Replacing certain discretionary powers of departmental officials with specific criteria;
  • Establishing a payment and refund scheme to guarantee work being performed on a claim, using the Financial Administration Act as legal authority for such a scheme;
  • Reducing duplication with other legislation (e.g. re safety);
  • Repealing dispute resolution provisions governing access disputes between surface rights holders and prospectors.
  • Changing the annual date for applying to the Mining Recorder for prospecting permits from the period between December 1 and December 31, to the much longer period between February 1 and the last business day of November, in order to grant additional time for notification and technical review of work planned in the permit area. (Notification is given by the Mining Recorder to stakeholders like Aboriginal groups and other federal departments and agencies);
  • Changing the deadline to apply for a mineral lease from the 10th to the 9th anniversary of the claim, so as to ensure continuity of the mineral tenure;
  • Permitting claims holders to surrender their claims at any time, by submitting a cancellation request and prescribed fee to the Mining Recorder;
  • Clarifying the power of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to delay the reopening of lands for staking and prospecting and to take or manage remedial measures, where those lands are environmentally damaged as a result of the previous owner failing to fulfill his environmental protection obligations.
  • Clarifying the power of the Minister to dispose of lands forming part of a cancelled mineral claim or leased claim where the cancellation has resulted from insolvency proceedings or by the realization of security.
  • Providing for suspension of work requirements and the payment of charges, if a claim holder company has received a court order under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act;
  • Clarifying the rules on prospecting permits.

Extensions of time for completing work required to maintain a mineral claim in good standing will be limited to three extensions in the 10-year duration of the mineral claim. Payments in lieu of work will have to be made for each extension, and the claim holder will be reimbursed if work is performed later within the period of validity of the claim.

In addition, the proposed changes will significantly reduce the administrative costs related to reporting on work. Many requirements of reporting and inspections will be removed; other reports will be simplified and their production in electronic format will be authorized.

It is anticipated that the two new sets of Regulations will modernize and streamline the legal structure of mineral tenure in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, reducing administrative costs and time considerably, to the satisfaction of mining interests and (it is hoped) thus stimulating mining development in the two Territories affected.

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