Under the Mining Act, anyone who engages in mining exploration work or mining operations determined by regulation must submit a rehabilitation and restoration plan (subsequently referred to as ‟closure plan”) in respect of the end land use on which the activities take place, for approval by the Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles (MERN). Approval is conditional upon a favourable opinion from the Ministère du Développement durable, de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MDDELCC).
To help companies prepare these plans, the MERN, working with the MDDELCC, has produced a Guidelines for preparing mine closure plans in Québec (the Guide), which sets out the regulations and requirements that must be met when reclaiming mining sites, the content of the plan, and the steps to be completed in order to obtain approval. The Guide was updated in 2017 to reflect amendments to the Act and regulations, and knowledge development in mining reclamation. It contains links to the legislation, regulations, directives and guides that must be considered when preparing a closure plan.
Closure plans filed and approved after December 10, 2013, are made public in accordance with section 215 of the Mining Act. They are available via the mining title management system GESTIM, in the "Mining Site" section.
The MERN oversees and take over the reclamation, care and maintenance and environmental monitoring of abandoned mining sites in Quebec. Significant efforts have already been made to develop effective, economical and reclamation measures. Design engineering is performed using the best practices and are specific to each mine site characteristics, including water balance, chemical stability, physical stability, underground water levels, and so on. In some cases, and where possible, reclamation work is performed with technologies that use waste materials such as forest biomass, sludge from water treatment plants, paper mill sludge or ash from cogeneration plants. This helps to reduce reclamation costs and is entirely consistent with the precepts of sustainable development.
In Québec, mine reclamation work is intended to restore the site to an acceptable environmental standard for productive use. This involves:
- eliminating unacceptable risks to public health and safety;
- limiting the production and spread of contaminants that may damage the receiving environment, and attempting to eliminate all forms of long-term care and maintenance;
- reclaimed the site to a visually acceptable standard;
- Rehabilitated the infrastructure area to be compatible with future use.
Mine reclamation activities in Québec have led to the development of recognized expertise in mine site characterization and identification of reclamation solutions for sites exhibiting major problems.
The MERN take over evaluation and approbation of closure plan of active mine and manage abandoned mine site reclamation. The selection of a reclamation method should be considered in a risk-based framework associated with best practices and standards and site-specific conditions for achieving reclamation objectives and limiting the long-term impact to the environment. Laboratory and on-field testing is sometimes required to confirm design specifications and criteria.