A major hard rock mining project in Yukon moving to development and/or production requires a detailed environmental and socio-economic assessment and various regulatory approvals, including but not limited to a Type A or B Water License and a Quartz Mining License.
There are two distinct stages that a project goes through before mining activity can commence. First, an assessment identifies environmental and socio-economic effects, their significance, and related mitigation measures. Secondly, there is the regulatory stage where regulators issue their respective permits, licenses or other authorizations as the case may be.
The following sections will provide a brief outline of the requirements and procedures for obtaining a Quartz Mining License.
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Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment
Most major mine development and production projects require a screening by the Executive Committee of YESAB, established under the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act (YESAA). Where the development and production level of a project does not meet the threshold for an Executive Committee level screening it will be assessed through the appropriate Designated Office (DO).
Proponents are encouraged to first contact the regulators at EMR’s Mineral Resources branch for preliminary discussions on regulatory requirements. The Yukon government works with the proponent and YESAB on the integration of the assessment and regulatory requirements. The proponent should also meet with YESAB to discuss the project and receive instructions on any YESAA requirements, processes, and timelines. YESAA also requires the proponent to consult with affected First Nations and communities prior to submitting their project proposal.
Upon receipt of the proposal, the YESAB Executive Committee determines whether it is adequate or whether supplementary information is required from the proponent.
Scope of Project
At the outset of its screening, the Executive Committee prepares a statement describing the scope of the project based on the information contained in the proposal. The scope of a project includes activities identified in the proposal and any other activity considered likely to be undertaken in relation to the project.
The scope of a project may be modified by the Executive Committee in the course of conducting its screening, as a result of supplementary information provided by the proponent, or other information available to or received by the Executive Committee relevant to the screening.
The Executive Committee publishes a notice on the screening of the project and invites government agencies, interested persons and members of the public to submit views and information relevant to the screening in writing. Public meetings may also be held to seek views about the project and information relevant to the screening.
The Executive Committee determines if it has sufficient information to prepare a draft screening report or if supplementary information from the proponent is required.
Upon completion of a draft screening report, government agencies, interested persons and members of the public are again invited to submit views or comments about the draft screening report in writing. Upon completion of the screening, the Executive Committee prepares a final screening report which includes the recommendation stating whether the project can proceed, and if so, any terms and conditions. This report is submitted to the Decision Body(s).
Once the Yukon government reviews the screening report from the Executive Committee, it decides whether to accept, reject or vary the recommendation and states this decision in a Decision Document. There may be a further referral back to the Executive Committee, prior to the final Decision Document being issued. After the Decision Document has been issued, government regulators may issue the required permits and licenses.
Quartz Mining License
Any operator who wishes to construct a facility or do physical work in support of the commercial production of most minerals (other than placer gold and coal) will require a Quartz Mining License. This applies to all mines whether or not they have an existing Water License. A Quartz Mining License is required before development or production can begin.
Development and production are both defined in Section 129(1) of the Quartz Mining Act 578 KB as:
Development means the construction of a facility or work for the production of minerals, but excludes the construction of a facility or work for the sole or principal purpose of assessing land for its suitability for the production of minerals.
Production means taking a mineral from the land, or treating a mineral that has been taken from the land, if done for commercial purposes, but excludes an exploration program.
Notwithstanding the definitions above, the following exceptions apply:
Production less than 10,000 tonnes/year: Producing mines that will be disturbing less than 10,000 tonnes of material per year may not require a quartz mining license. This tonnage includes ore, waste and overburden. Operations that fit into this category may be regulated under the Quartz Mining Land Use Regulation 520 KB and if so, will require an approved Operating Plan to proceed.
Exploration at a Producing Mine and Pre-Development Activities
All exploration activities that are not related to the delineation of known mineable reserves of a deposit(s) under development and production, as regulated under the Quartz Mining License, are regulated under the Quartz Mining Land Use Regulation. This will allow the company to retain maximum flexibility in its exploration activities at the mine site under their Operating Plan.
What Does the Quartz Mining License Regulate?
The Minister may include in the Quartz Mining License any conditions related to land use and reclamation which the Minister considers appropriate. Quartz Mining License terms and conditions will typically cover the following areas:
Content of Application for Quartz Mining License
Application for a Quartz Mining License should be in the form of a letter requesting a license and a project description containing the information requirements as outlined below. The letter of application should include at a minimum the following information:
Timing for the license application process for new projects varies depending on the complexity of the project. It is important to contact the Mineral Resource branch as early in the planning process as possible to discuss the project. Review of this application and development of the Quartz Mining License may occur concurrently with the YESAA assessment. However, a license cannot be issued until a final Decision Document has been signed by the Decision Body.
Once the Quartz Mining License application has been received, Mineral Resources will review the application for completeness and notify the applicant in writing that either the application is complete or that more information is required.
Renewals of Quartz Mining License
The duration of the Quartz Mining License is usually tied to the length of the Water License, if one exists for the project. Renewal of a Quartz Mining License must be approved by the Minister of EMR. Written application should be made to the Director of Mineral Resources.
Amendments of Quartz Mining License
Amendment of a license must also be approved by the Minister of EMR. Applications to amend the license should be submitted to the Director, Mineral Resources. Natural Resources Officers (NROs) with the EMR’s Client Services and Inspections branch can authorize minor amendments through the use of a variation notice if they are satisfied that the amendment will not result in any significant adverse environmental effects.
Requests to an NRO should be made in writing. If it is determined that the amendment is beyond the scope of the NRO’s authority, then an environmental and socio-economic assessment may be required before the license amendment can be considered. Any major amendment to the license should be requested as early as possible to allow time for review and to incorporate them into the license.
Assignment of Quartz Mining License
Assignments of a Quartz Mining License require the Minister’s approval. Assignments (sale or transfer of properties) are authorized as long as the assignee (prospective new holder) undertakes in writing to comply with the license and EMR is satisfied that the assignment of the license will not result in contravention of any condition of the license or provisions of the Quartz Mining Act 578 KB. Requests for assignments should be made in writing to the Director of Mineral Resources.
The request should include the name and address of the assignee, a written commitment from the assignee to undertake all obligations of the license, a summary of the security arrangement proposed, corporate registry information (including ownership, assets and liabilities, registration of corporation), and information on closing (dates of ownership transfer). Additional information may be requested by the Director of Mineral Resources. If an assignment of the Water License is also required, EMR will coordinate the closing date of assignment with the Water License date. An application should also be made to the district Mining Recorder for assignment of mineral claims and leases.
Public Notice and Consultation
The QMA 578 KB states that the circumstances and manner in which public notification is to take place may be set out in regulations. When there is no other requirement for public notification under other legislation, Mineral Resources will prescribe the manner in which the proponent must notify or consult with the public concerning the project. Any consultation held in conjunction with the environmental and socio-economic assessment process or in conjunction with other regulatory processes, such as a water licensing process, will be taken into account. The applicant will be notified whether such consultation will be required and what form it should take.
When it has been determined that the mining operation has been terminated and all conditions of the license and Quartz Mining Act 578 KB have been complied with, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources may issue a Certificate of Closure. The proponent must make written application for such a certificate to the Director, Mineral Resources. Issuance of the certificate would likely be independent of the closure of other licenses such as the Water License or surface lease. A Certificate of Closure under the Quartz Mining Act 578 KB does not extinguish closure obligations under any other authorizations or legislation.
The Quartz Mining License will contain terms and conditions regarding reclamation of mining activities as well as financial security for reclamation and closure activities. Reclamation under the Quartz Mining License includes terrestrial impacts of the mining operation. Activities related to the use of water or deposit of waste into water will continue to be covered under the mine’s Water License. In some instances, mine reclamation requirements could be considered both terrestrial and water related. (e.g. the design of waste rock dumps). In these instances, the terms and conditions of the Quartz Mining License will be designed so as not to conflict with the Water License requirements. However, the Quartz Mining License may require additional mitigation beyond the Water License requirements.