British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

A review of environmental impact statements and their utility for surface coal mine reclamation in Alberta and British Columbia Smyth, Clint R.


Adequate pre-disturbance baseline information upon which to develop decisions is crucial to the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process and to environmental management of surface coal mines. Forty-four coal mine development or expansion Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) from Alberta and British Columbia were obtained, and their environmental information content and applicability to post-development reclamation planning were reviewed. The objective of the study was to determine the relevance and utility of the technical information contained within mine development EISs for reclamation planning. Content analysis was used as the mechanism of data collection. Content categories for thematic coding were developed through a document review process. The data collected were qualitative in nature with presence or absence of pre-determined category codes chosen as the units of measurement. All documents were read three times after coding and prior to data collection in order to ensure reliability. Data summarization involved simple tabulations of the presence/absence data. The studies were prepared over a 30-year period from 1975 to 2005. In general, the technical basis of the EIS document needs to be improved with specific reference to reclamation planning, implementation, and monitoring. All of the EISs contained vague narrative generalizations based, for the most part, on poorly described methods. The approaches taken reflected a static perspective of ecosystems, and the information collected appeared to be a part of a ritualized ‘fill-in-the-blanks’ process. Although variable, most EISs did not contain sufficient information (content and quality) upon which to base project approval with respect to reclamation. Standardization of data collection parameters and methodology as well as the development of appropriate data analysis and presentation protocols is necessary. Recovery indices and chronosequence studies should be required as part of the EIA process.

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