Federal gov’t unveils Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan

Canada’s federal government used the opportunity of the annual convention of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada in Toronto in early March to unveil its 44-page Canadian Minerals and Metals Plan (CMMP), which is intended to guide federal and provincial mining policy in the years ahead.

In some ways, the CMMP follows in the steps of the Whitehorse Mining Initiative, which was signed in 1994 by representatives from the federal, provincial and territorial governments; industry; Indigenous and environmental organizations; and labour unions.

First conceived in August 2017 by Canadian mines ministers, the final CMMP is described by the federal government as a “pan-Canadian plan developed by federal, provincial and territorial governments in collaboration with partners and stakeholders, which respects the roles of governments related to mineral resource development.”

For those unfamiliar with jurisdictional boundaries in Canadian mining, resource management and mining activities broadly fall under the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories. Exceptions where the federal government regulates heavily occur in the uranium industry, offshore oil and gas, and in certain Aboriginal treaty lands.

One contentious area the federal government is using to increase its regulatory control over mining at the expense of the provinces and territories is through environmental permitting.

The CMMP tries to assuage these fears of jurisdiction creep, noting the “provinces and territories have their own priorities, plans and strategies in support of their respective minerals and metals industries. The CMMP does not supplant these efforts. Its aim is to encourage synergies and support existing provincial and territorial priorities, while bringing together resources from across Canada to address systemic challenges and take advantage of opportunities.”

While the federal government’s proposed Bill C-69 that will change environmental permitting in Canada and the scheduled federal carbon tax are the real meat-and-potatoes regulatory issues facing Canadian miners, the CMMP can be firmly pegged as an aspirational document containing broad statements of purpose to support Canadian mining, and continue its historic trend towards improved technical and socio-political performance.

As such, there’s not much to quibble with when it comes to the CMMP, and the hand of industry groups like the Mining Association of Canada and provincial mine ministers can be seen in the CMMP’s cautionary language to respect existing provincial jurisdictions; exercise caution in land-use decisions, such a park creation; avoid too-slow environmental permitting; the need for more infrastructure in the Far North; and the dangers of disproportionately imposing carbon taxes on certain remote projects.

There is nothing binding whatsoever in the CMMP, but it gets the conversation going in the right direction. Next up for the CMMP process is for Canada’s mine ministers in mid-2019 to consider actions to “operationalize” the CMMP, with the first CMMP “Action Plan” to be released in 2020.

The Mining Association of Canada gave its hearty endorsement of the CMMP, stating that it “proposes a number of initiatives — including strategic investments in infrastructure — supporting financing and taxation systems that support exploration, promoting more agile and efficient regulatory systems, and investing in Indigenous training initiatives and mining innovation. If all of Canada’s governments take steps to put this plan into action, the competitive landscape for new mineral exploration and mining investment will be much improved.”

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