British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Post-closure stewardship of mine sites : institutional control in Saskatchewan : a case history Hovdebo, D. G.; Cunningham, K. E.; Kristoff, D. M.; Webster, M. S.


Environmental practices and regulations have advanced significantly since Canadian mine operations were developed in the early 1900s and now cover all aspects of construction and operation. Similarly, most jurisdictions around the world now require mining operations to prepare closure plans and to post a bond or other financial assurance of sufficient value to cover the cost of closure from the time a mine is first approved. However, few jurisdictions have developed a formal institutional control management framework that provides for custodial transfer and effective long-term stewardship of sites once the operator has fulfilled its closure obligations and is eligible for release from further financial bonding (closed sites). Post-closure management of such sites is an issue that has been identified by the public, industry, and government stakeholders. The Province of Saskatchewan successfully undertook the processes necessary to develop a formal, effective institutional control program (ICP) that defines the conditions under which it will accept custodial responsibility for closed mine sites and provide for the long-term stewardship of each site. The process was undertaken by a working group led by a consultant and composed of representatives from the Executive Council, Ministries of Environment, Energy and Resources, Northern Affairs, Justice, and Finance. It was initiated in 2005 with a comprehensive assessment of policy and legislative requirements and the risks and liabilities associated with undertaking such a program. This process also involved extensive consultations with industry, Aboriginal traditional users, and other stakeholders in order to secure their input, inclusion, and support. The entire process was completed with the promulgation of the Reclaimed Industrial Sites Act (RISA) and associated regulations in 2007 and the formal acceptance of the first mine sites in 2009. The Saskatchewan ICP addresses all aspects of conventional closed mines as well as the uranium-specific issues of radioactive waste management, including those defined in the articles of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, all applicable provincial acts and regulations, and the federal Nuclear Safety and Control Act (NSCA). The program includes a formal, publically accessible registry and document repository. It has been designed to be revenue neutral and sustainable and to ensure that future generations are not burdened with the costs of the long-term monitoring and maintenance of former mine sites in the province. In addition, the Saskatchewan Ministry of the Environment now includes the cost for transferring a closed site into the ICP as a component of the financial assurance required for operating sites. Since its inception, the Saskatchewan ICP has accepted one gold mine/mill and five uranium mine sites into the institutional control registry and has completed the first of the requisite scheduled inspections of each registered site. This case history describes the actions and process used to develop the program, discusses the challenges encountered, and summarises the outcomes of the creation of a sustainable formal institutional control management framework in Saskatchewan.

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