In Québec, roughly 20 mineral substances are mined and used to manufacture a host of products that are essential to our everyday lives. Extraction and processing of these substances generates waste that can adversely affect the environment if the necessary precautions are not taken.
The Mining Act and the Regulation respecting mineral substances other than petroleum, natural gas and brine contain provisions requiring companies to reclaim the land that is affected by their activities. These requirements apply to both mineral exploration activities and mining operations. The law requires corporations to submit rehabilitation and restoration plan (subsequently referred to as ‟closure plan”) and provide financial guarantee covering the cost of reclamation work. Plan must be approved by the Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles (MERN) before mining activities begin in the case of mineral exploration, and before a mining lease is issued in the case of mining operations.
The requirements apply to the holders of mining rights who carry out specific exploration work on public or privately-owned land. In particular, they apply to:
- excavation work involving the moving of 5,000 m3 or more of unconsolidated deposits or unconsolidated deposits covering an area of 10,000 m2 or more;
- extraction of mineral substances for geological or geochemical sampling in amounts of 500 metric tons or more;
work carried out in respect of material deposited in accumulation areas (especially mine tailing sites);
- underground work related to mining exploration, such as the sinking of access ramps, the dewatering of mine shafts and the hoisting of mineral substances to the surface;
- preparation of accumulation areas.
Every person who carries out mining operations on public or privately-owned land in Québec is subject to the reclamation requirements set out in the Mining Act. These requirements apply to every mineral substance except petroleum, natural gas, brine and surface mineral substances. They therefore apply to:
- any activity related to the extraction of ore or mine tailings, including the drawing and transportation of ore, the sinking of shafts and access ramps, crushing, and keeping excavations dry;
- any activity related to the processing of ore or mine tailings, including preparation, beneficiation (excluding refining and pelletizing of iron ore or iron concentrate) and solid-liquid separation;
- work related to the preparation of accumulation areas.
Every corporation that carries out mining activities covered by the reclamation requirements set out in the Mining Act must submit a closure plan to the MERN. The MERN consults the Ministère de l’Environnement et de la Lutte contre les changements climatiques (MELCC) before approving the plan and the amount of the financial guarantee that must accompany the plan. It may, where necessary, require additional research or study before approving the plan.
The closure plan must be approved by the MERN before a mining lease can be issued. It must contain the following information in particular:
- a description of the site and the mining activities that have been or will be carried out;
- a description of the reclamation work to be performed during mining operations, where the circumstances permit;
- a description of the rehabilitation and reclamation work to be performed when mining operations have ended;
- in the case of an open-pit mine, a backfill feasibility study;
- a schedule of the phases of completion of the work;
- a detailed estimate of the expected cost of the reclamation work;
- a description of the financial guarantee, the amount of which must be equal to the expected cost of the reclamation work.
The closure plan must be revised every five years. However, the MERN may fix a shorter period for revision when it approves the plan. It may require that the plan be revised if there is a change in the mining operations, if the MERN itself sees fit to require a revision (e.g. if new technologies are introduced) or if the company wishes to amend the plan. The revised plan must also be submitted to the MERN for approval.
For additional information on the contents of the closure plan, please see the Guidelines for preparing mine closure plans in Québec.
Assessment and Approval of the Closure Plan and Timeframe
A rehabilitation and restoration plan, subsequently referred to as the closure plan, must be assessed and approved by the Department within 200 working days of submission. For further information, please see the assessment and approval process for closure plans .
A mining company whose closure plan has been approved must provide the MERN with a financial guarantee in accordance with the standards set out in the regulation. The amount of the guarantee must cover all the estimated reclamation costs for the entire mining site. The guarantee must be paid in three instalments, in the two years following the date on which the plan is approved, as follows:
- an initial instalment covering 50% of the total amount of the guarantee, within 90 days of receiving approval for the plan;
- two subsequent instalments, each covering 25% of the total amount of the guarantee, on the first two anniversaries of the date on which the plan was approved.
The guarantee must take one of the following forms:
- a cheque made out to the Minister of Finance of Québec;
- bonds issued or guaranteed by Canada, Québec, another Canadian province or a municipality in Canada;
- a guaranteed investment certificate or term deposit certificate;
- an irrevocable and unconditional letter of credit ;
- a security or a guarantee policy issued on behalf of the Government of Québec ;
- a trust constituted in accordance with the provisions of the Civil Code of Québec.
In some cases the MERN may require payment of the full amount of the guarantee upon approval of the plan. For example, it may require payment of the full amount if the financial situation of the company or a reduction of the anticipated duration of mining operations are such that they may prevent payment of the guarantee.
Certificate of release
A mining company may ask to be released from the reclamation requirements stipulated in the Mining Act if the following two conditions are met:
- the closure work has been carried out in accordance with the plan approved by the MERN, and no sum of money is due to the Minister with respect to the performance of that work;
- the site does not pose a risk for the environment or for human health and safety, and in particular, poses no risk of acid mine drainage.
The MERN consults the MELCC before issuing a certificate of release.
A mining company may also be released from the requirement to reclaim its mining site if the MERN agrees to let a third party assume the obligations.
The certificate releases the financial guarantee provided with the closure plan.
Measures applicable to accumulation areas prior to 1995
The MERN may require a person who carried out mineral exploration or mining operations work, or who operated a concentration plant before March 9, 1995, to submit a closure plan for the land affected by the tailings produced, and to perform the work described in the plan by a specific date.
For further information
Mining Service Centre
Telephone: 418 627-6278
Toll-free: 1 800 363-7233 (toll-free in Canada)
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: 8:30 a.m. to midday and 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday: 10:00 a.m. to midday and 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.