June 2015    Print this article

Climate Change Risks and Vulnerabilities in the Mining Sector 

Katrie Bergeron, Eng., and Louis Bienvenu, Eng.
Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles

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In 2002, when Canada ratified the Kyoto Protocol, it undertook to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions in the period 2008-2012 by 6% from their 1990 levels. In 2006, to help achieve this goal by acting within its own areas of jurisdiction, Québec adopted the 2006-2012 Climate Change Action Plan (2006-2012 CCAP). The aim of the Plan was to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and help Québec society to adjust to climate change.

The Québec Government has since reiterated its desire to fight climate change by launching its 2013-2020 Climate Change Action Plan (2013-2020 CCAP). The new Plan provides for measures in all GHG-emitting sectors and is designed achieve a new target, namely to reduce GHG emissions by 20% from their 1990 levels, between now and 2020. The Plan also supports the 2013-2020 Government Strategy for Climate Change Adaptation. Funding for the measures, amounting to roughly $3.3 billion, comes from the Green Fund, which is composed mainly of revenues derived from auction sales in Québec’s cap-and-trade system for GHG emission allowances (or the Québec-California carbon market).

The Ministère de l’Énergie et des Ressources naturelles (MERN) is responsible for implementing one of the Plan’s actions, namely an analysis of climate change risks and vulnerabilities in the mining sector.

The MERN experts who worked on this subject, producing a literature review among other things, found that many questions were still unanswered. For example: What impacts will climate change have on mining sites in Québec? Will climate change be an obstacle to natural resource developments, including those proposed in the Plan Nord? Is the mining industry in a position to face up to these challenges? What share of the risk should be borne by the companies? By the Government? Are Québec’s taxpayers protected from future financial liabilities arising from sites under State responsibility or sites released in the future?

In the summer of 2014, the MERN commissioned the Research Institute on Mines and Environment (RIME) to analyze climate change risks and vulnerabilities in Québec’s mining sector. The RIME was created in 2013 by the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT) and Polytechnique Montréal. Working mainly in the areas of mine tailings management and the environment, it aims to develop environmental solutions for every stage of a mine’s life cycle.

To perform the analysis, the RIME brought together a team of experts from Québec in the areas of exploration, mining and mine restoration. The study is an important, if not vital, point of reference for the future of Québec’s mining industry. It will help guide the actions of both the Government and the industry in the coming years, as they adjust mineral resource development to the impacts of climate change. The entire industry will gain as a result. The findings from the analysis are expected to be published before the end of 2015.

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