Canada: Mining Activities And Land Use Planning – Québec Delegates New Powers To Regional County Municipalities

La version française suit /  French language version follows

On January 11, 2017, the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources of Québec ("MERN"), Mr. Pierre Arcand, published new Government Policy Directions (in French only) aimed at promoting the harmonious coexistence of mining activities with other uses of the territory. On the same day, the Québec Government also issued Decree 1075-2016, which sets December 14, 2016 as the date on which section 108 of the Act to amend the Mining Act (2013, chapter 32) came into force.

As a result of these developments, which follow the 2013 reform of Quebec's Mining Act, regional county municipalities ("RCM") can now delimit, in their land use and development plans, any territory deemed incompatible with mining activities. These territories will be withdrawn from mining exploration and operations in the Province, subject to certain conditions.

These new powers must be used in compliance with the new Government Policy Directions which distinguish between territories according to their location in relation to urbanization perimeters. Among other things, a territory located inside an urbanization perimeter may be classified by a RCM as mining-incompatible. However a territory located outside an urbanization perimeter may not be classified as mining-incompatible unless the RCM demonstrates that such territory is characterized by all of the following elements:

  • Presence of at least one sensitive activity (residential, historical, agricultural, recreational tourism, conservation, etc.);
  • Activity is difficult to relocate;
  • Maintaining such an activity is of interest to the community;
  • The viability of such an activity would be compromised by the impacts of mining activities.

In the event that the proposed delimitation does not meet the criteria set out in the Government Policy Directions, the MERN will have the power to oppose the proposed delimitation and preserve, by such, the possibility of carrying out mining activities within that territory.

Mining rights such as mining concessions and mining leases granted prior to the coming into force of the Act to amend the Mining Act (2013) and located within mining-incompatible territories will not be affected by such delimitation and mining activities may continue to be carried out by the holder of the mining right.

These developments give RCMs an increased role in the development phase of mining projects, and highlight the need for promoters to monitor amendments to land use and development plans, and to work with local stakeholders on social acceptability matters.

French Version:

Activités minières et aménagement du territoire – Québec délègue de nouveaux pouvoirs aux municipalités régionales de comté

Le 11 janvier 2017, le ministre de l'Énergie et des Ressources naturelles du Québec ("MERN"), M. Pierre Arcand, a publié les nouvelles orientations gouvernementales visant à favoriser une cohabitation harmonieuse de l'activité minière avec les autres usagers du territoire. Le même jour, le Gouvernement du Québec a publié le Décret 1075-2016, qui fixe au 14 décembre 2016 la date d'entrée en vigueur de l'article 108 de la Loi modifiant la Loi sur les mines (2013, chapitre 32).

Par l'entremise de ces développements, qui font suite à la réforme de 2013 de la Loi sur les mines, les municipalités régionales de comté ("MRC") dispose maintenant du pouvoir d'interdire la réalisation d'activités minières sur une partie de leur territoire en délimitant les territoires jugés incompatibles à l'activité minière et ce, en modifiant leurs schémas d'aménagement.

L'exercice de ce pouvoir est toutefois encadré par les nouvelles orientations gouvernementales, qui établissement notamment une distinction entre les territoires selon leur localisation par rapport aux périmètres d'urbanisation. Ainsi, les terrains situés à l'intérieur d'un périmètre d'urbanisation pourront être classifiés par les MRC comme des territoires incompatibles à l'activité minière, sans autre démonstration de la part de la MRC. Cependant, pour les territoires situés à l'extérieur des périmètres d'urbanisation, les MRC devront notamment démontrer que le territoire est caractérisé par l'ensemble des éléments suivants :

  • Présence d'au moins une activité sensible (résidentiel, historique, agricole, récréotouristique, conservation, etc.);
  • L'activité est difficilement déplaçable;
  • Le maintien de cette activité présente un intérêt pour la collectivité;
  • La viabilité de cette activité serait compromise par les impacts de l'activité minière.

Dans l'éventualité où la modification proposée au schéma d'aménagement ne respecte pas les critères énoncés aux orientations gouvernementales, le MERN aura le pouvoir de s'opposer à la délimitation proposée, préservant ainsi la possibilité de réaliser des activités minières sur ce territoire. De plus, les droits miniers, tels que les concessions minières et les baux miniers, octroyés avant l'entrée en vigueur de la Loi modifiant la Loi sur les mines et se retrouvant à l'intérieur d'un territoire soustrait à l'activité minière ne seront pas visés par cette modification et les activités minières pourront continuer d'y être exercées par le titulaire du droit minier.

Ces développements accordent aux MRC un rôle accru dans l'aménagement du territoire à l'égard des activités minières et soulignent la nécessité pour les promoteurs de surveiller les modifications apportées aux schémas d'aménagement et de travailler avec les parties prenantes locales sur les questions d'acceptabilité sociale.

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