DIAND wants changes in Northern mining rules

As DIAND prepares to streamline paperwork and adjust adminstrative fees, the industry grapples with a new, and sometimes uncertain, regulatory system.

By NUNATSIAQ NEWS

DWANE WILKIN
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development began the second phase of its review of Canadian mining regulations last week.

A discussion paper outlining several proposed changes to the way prospecting permits, mineral claims and mineral leases are administered was released Sept. 24. Public consultations are expected to wrap up in November.

Among the changes, increases in licensing fees and the amount of money exploration companies must spend each year to keep their claims active are contemplated.

A separate review of Canada’s mining royalties schedule has been underway for more than a year.

But the biggest question facing mining companies these days, is how they will operate in the emerging new regulatory regime of the North.

“Because it’s a transition period, it’s certainly a period of uncertainty for industry and everyone has to learn the new rules,” Kate Hearn, manager of DIAND’s minerals directorate in Yellowknife said this week.

Recent aboriginal land-claims settlements, including the Nunavut land claim agreement, have prompted much of the change in the regulatory environment in the North.

The minerals directorate was established last January to help guide exploration companies through the sometimes perplexing process of regulatory approval.

DIAND is currently reviewing all of its northern resource-management legislation to reflect those land claim agreements.

Exploration businesses, meanwhile, have expressed concern about higher start-up costs as a result of the new regulatory bodies.

“People who have only seen government in the past, they weren’t aware of what it means to have a drill sitting with two crews waiting to work 24 hours a day while you’re waiting for your land-use permit,” Mike Vaydik, (director) of the NWT Chamber of Mines said.

“You’re paying wages to all those people and you have a camp set up and helicopters. You can imagine the cost of even a day’s delay.”

Slow and inconsistent application of land-use regulations, in particular, could discourage new exploration in Nunavut, he said.

“I have heard from a number of exploration companies, over the past year and a half, that they were concerned with the speed with which applications were being processed and the consistency with which the information was being requested,” Vaydik said.

“It adds to the risk to the exploration company and that just makes our geology less attractive.”

For now, though, DIAND appears content with streamlining existing mining regulations over which it still has direct control, and is not contemplating a review of the entire regulatory process.

In fact, while the minerals directorate tries to lessen the bureaucratic burden on industry by acting as a “pathfinder” through the new regulatory undergrowth, Hearn said changes to DIAND’s resource-management legislation will strive for a “single-window” approach to regulations.

But, she added, “the regulators themselves are going to have to try to set up procedures that come as close to a one-window approach as possible.”

In the meantime, industry is not content sitting on the sidelines while Nunavut regulators figure out how they are going to work together. Organizers of a special mining conference, to be held in Calgary in December, hope to bring regulators and mining companies together to air their concerns.

The meeting is jointly sponsored by the NWT Chamber of Mines and the Canadian Institute for Resource Law.

“It’s meant to be a practical discussion of the issues, so that mining people come to understand the concerns of Nunavut better, and the Nunavut regulatory agencies come to understand mining industry’s concerns,” Vaydik said.

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