What You Need to Know About British Columbia’s Interim Reclamation Security Policy

The provincial government of British Columbia (B.C.), Canada, recently passed an interim reclamation security policy for B.C.’s mining industry.

The goal of the new policy is to better protect the environment, improve sustainability, and increase transparency on mine projects across the province.

What is a security policy in the mining industry?

In the B.C. mining industry, security policies are used as a way for the government to ensure mine operators return land safely and responsibly at the end of a mine’s lifecycle.

There are many different types of security policies currently in place in B.C., but generally, security policies are legally binding contracts that require mine operators to return mine disturbed land to a safe and ecologically sustainable state. This is enforced various ways, but the most common is the governments or other stakeholders will take a deposit of an agreed upon sum at the time of granting mine permits.

This process is commonly referred to as bonding, and the bond is only fully returned to the mine operator once all closure success criteria have been met, approved, and signed off on (British Columbia Government, par 1, 2022). The bond can be reduced before closure by performing reclamation where possible during mining operations.

What does the new policy stipulate?

The new interim security policy in B.C. requires reclamation liability cost estimates to include not only the usual reclamation activities, like re-vegetation and slope design, but also factor in environmental liabilities. Environmental liabilities can include things like water and soil contamination which would both require treatment to amend, as well as the cost to maintain and operate water treatment plants (Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation, par. 2, 2022).

The purpose of this policy is to create better alignment with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. The interim policy will help ensure that owners of industrial projects and mine operators are liable for environmental cleanup costs and not B.C. taxpayers (Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation, par. 3, 2022).

The policy is being labelled as interim for now because it is planned to be updated and revised once the Public Interest Bonding Strategy, meant to improve bonding in the natural resources industry, is completed and released by the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. The strategy is currently still in development; public engagement and input sessions on the strategy framework have concluded.

According to the Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon, the interim policy has been in development since 2016, and was developed alongside input from Indigenous Communities, non-government organizations, and the public (Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon, par. 5, 2022).

How will this interim policy impact mine operators and current mines in B.C.?

The policy changes will potentially have the most direct impact on mines seeking to begin operations, and mine’s with less than 5 years mineral reserve remaining, as they will be required to post a full reclamation security equal to the liability of the mine.

Prior to this new policy, mining companies were not always required to bond the full cost of their liabilities. It used to be determined based on likelihood of a company defaulting. This risk-based approach was translated into how much the company would have to pay in reclamation security up-front (Parizot, par. 2, 2022).

The policy changes ensure that mines at the most vulnerable point in their lifecycle, at the beginning and at the end, are liable for 100 percent of reclamation costs and environmental liabilities and takes that burden away from taxpayers (Parizot, par. 8, 2022).

To read the full policy, visit the link below:

Interim Major Mines Reclamation Security Policy

How can Okane help?

According to the Mining Association of British Columbia, the implementation of this policy encourages “proactive reclamation, where mines conduct restoration work throughout the life cycle of the mine” (Mining Association of British Columbia, par. 2, 2022), also known as progressive reclamation.

We have an experienced team of multidisciplinary engineers dedicated to helping mining companies with progressive reclamation and mine closure. We work with mine operators to design and achieve progressive reclamation at all points of the mine lifecycle. We can conduct detailed mine plan reviews to help optimize planning and identify efficiencies that can reduce peak bond amounts and identify opportunities to recover portions of the bond amount sooner.

Contact us to learn how we can help your operations align with B.C.’s interim reclamation policy to support a smooth transition into closure and future land use.

References

British Columbia Government. (October 3, 2022). Reclamation Securities. Retrieved from https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/industry/mineral-exploration-mining/permitting/mine-reclamation-securities

Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation. (April 5, 2022). New Mining Reclamation Policy Expands Environmental Protection. BC Government News. Retrieved from https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022EMLI0019-000495

Mining Association of British Columbia. (April 5, 2022). MABC Responds to Major Mines Reclamation Security Policy. Retrieved from https://www.mining.bc.ca/news-releases/mabc-responds-major-mines-reclamation-security-policy

Parizot, M. (May 19, 2022). New Reclamation Requirements for B.C. Mines. CIM Magazine. Retrieved from https://magazine.cim.org/en/news/2022/new-reclamation-requirements-for-bc-mines-en/