British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Managing long-term orphaned mine liabilities : exploring the relinquishment of closed sites Gardiner, E. J.; Cowan, W. R.; Tremblay, G. A.; Hogan, C. M.


The National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI) was launched in 2002 in Canada in response to a request by federal, provincial and territorial mines ministers. It is a national multi-stakeholder initiative that addresses issues related to orphaned and abandoned mines in Canada. One of the guiding principles of NOAMI is that “work toward eliminating future abandonment must continue, including the tightening of regulatory approaches.” Recently, NOAMI discovered that while processes of closure planning and the provision of financial assurance are well-developed and consistently applied across Canada, policy and regulatory approaches focusing on long-term management of sites beyond closure, including potential methods of returning mining lands to the Crown, are almost non-existent. This paper will describe various initiatives undertaken by NOAMI during the past four years that explore this issue in detail and offer recommendations for change. A 2010 NOAMI report entitled “The policy framework in Canada for mine closure and management of long-term liabilities: a guidance document” presents a policy framework and recommendations for preventing further accrual of abandoned mine liabilities. Subsequently, a 2011 multi-stakeholder workshop, Exploring the Management of Long-term Liabilities and the Return of Mining Lands to the Crown, resulted in the development of a roadmap for managing long-term liabilities. In 2013, Cowan Minerals Ltd. produced a report for NOAMI based on a two-part study. The first part examined six case studies from different Canadian jurisdictions that describe closed sites that either were returned to the Crown or were in the process of making such an application. The second part, a decision tree or process, identified key issues and questions that need to be addressed in order to determine whether a site should be brought under government jurisdiction or remain the responsibility of the operator. The report, “Case studies and decision-making process for the relinquishment of closed mine sites” (2013), lays out a five-step approach for regulators and industry to consider when determining if a site could, or should, ultimately be returned to the Crown. Finally, in 2014, NOAMI commissioned a study that describes key criteria for the effective long-term stewardship of closed mine sites. The purpose of the key criteria is to provide a summary of site aspects that will aid the user in identifying, analysing, and evaluating potential site hazards, including those that may pose a risk to public health and safety, to the environment, to ecosystem services and to future land use.

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