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Mining in Canada

State of the Industry Review

Written by Peter Budgell

Table of Contents

Canada Mining Laws & Regulations
Natural Resources Canada provides a comprehensive overview of Canadian mining law and regulations, including links to relevant federal and provincial statutes. The following is a brief overview of these federal and provincial laws.

Nunavut mining and exploration activities are regulated by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. In a land claims settlement, the mineral rights for about 10 per cent of Nunavut have been turned over to the Inuit community. The Inuit community sets the rules and regulations in those blocks that are not under federal jurisdiction.

Ore Body Ownership. Until some time in the early 1900s, surface rights and mineral rights came with the purchase of land, depending on the jurisdiction. Since then, mineral rights have been government-owned and cannot be purchased, only leased, by individuals or companies. As a result, mineral rights to more than 90 per cent of the land are currently owned by governments.

Leases. The regulation of mining activities on publicly owned mineral leases falls under provincial/territorial government jurisdiction. Thus, there is separate mining rights legislation for each of the thirteen Canadian jurisdictions except Nunavut.

Wabush Mines, Labrador

Staking claims. Provincial laws provide for marking (staking) an area where a prospector is allowed to prospect. Claims remain valid as long as the prospector does a defined amount of work each year, and lapses if he lets them lie dormant.

In the Northwest Territories, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, individuals and companies must obtain a prospector’s license before exploring for minerals.

In the Yukon, Alberta, Saskatchewan, PEI, and Newfoundland and Labrador, you may conduct prospecting or exploration activities without a license but you must have a license to actually acquire mineral rights (or "stake claims") to protect what one has discovered.

Effluent and environmental impact. Federal regulations relevant to mining and environmental impact pertain primarily to the quality of mine effluent and its impact on fish. The regulations establish procedures for monitoring water quality, and set discharge criteria and permissible impacts. Regulations are generally administered by provincial authorities. Each province has it own laws and regulations governing environmental impact assessments, and mine operating and closure criteria and requirements.

CPR coal train going west through the Columbia Valley toward the Port of Vancouver

Health and Safety. The principal federal law is the Canadian Labor Code, Part II. There are specific acts regulating health and safety in the coal mining industry and the uranium mining industry.

Control of Explosives and Blasting. The federal Explosives Act maintains a system of authorization, licensing, certification and permits, supported by a compliance inspection program. The act ensures that only responsible people have access to explosives.

The chapter on Canada in the publication Getting the Deal Through - Mining 2007 provides an overview of the legal and regulatory issues facing companies in the mining industry.

The leading national Canadian mining institutions include the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) and the Mineralogical Association of Canada. There are region-specific mining associations in most provinces.

There are associations and institutions for almost every technology and professional interest in mining in Canada. On a national level the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada with its well-attended annual conference is probably the best known. There are mining associations for Coal Mining, Oil Sands Mining, and Women in Mining. A comprehensive list is on the InfoMine Canada Page.

At the start of 2005, there were over 200 producing metal, non-metal and coal mines in Canada and over 3,000 stone quarries and gravel pits. These mines and their economic output (Canadian Mining Fact Sheet) accounts for about four percent of Canadian Gross Domestic Product. Over one hundred communities and 600,000 people depend on Canadian mining. Additional information about the positive impact of the mining industry on the Canadian economy is provided by Natural Resources Canada.

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