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Spacer Table of Contents > Reports > Legal and Institutional Barriers to Collaboration Relating to Orphaned/Abandoned Mines (OAMs) Abstract and Summary

WORKSHOP PROCEEDINGS

Legal and Institutional Barriers to Collaboration Relating to Orphaned/Abandoned Mines (OAMs)

Ottawa, Ontario
February 24-25, 2003

Prepared for:
National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Advisory Committee

of the
National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI)

Prepared by:
Hajo Versteeg, Environmental Law and Policy Advisory Committee

June 2003


Table of Contents

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ABSTRACT

This report captures proceedings of the Workshop on Legislative and Institutional Barriers to Collaboration Relating to Orphaned/Abandoned Mines (OAMs). The workshop was held on February 24th and 25th, 2003, in Ottawa, Ontario. The contents of these Proceedings include an introduction and background information to the Workshop, summaries of the detailed contextual presentations that set the stage for improving collaboration among government departments and stakeholders, and highlights of the substantive discussion and path forward for addressing the barriers to collaboration and preferred options that would allow third parties to collaborate on clean-up and manage liabilities related to Orphaned/Abandoned Mines .


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SUMMARY

Orphaned or abandoned mines are those mines for which the owner cannot be found or for which the owner is financially unable or unwilling to carry out clean-up. Many pose environmental, health, safety, and economic problems to communities, the mining industry, and governments. In 2001, federal, provincial and territorial Mines Ministers asked that a National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Advisory Committee be struck to study various issues and initiatives concerning the development and implementation of remediation programs across Canada. The Committee sponsored the Workshop on Legislative and Institutional Barriers to Collaboration Relating to Orphaned/Abandoned Mines (OAMs), held on February 24th and 25th in Ottawa, Canada. The workshop was a forum for information sharing and dialogue on improving collaboration relating to OAMs among federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, Aboriginal organizations, the mining sector and mining industry associations, and environmental and labour groups. All participants recognized that policy and legal issues surrounding third party liability and OAMs need to be examined and overcome in a cooperative and transparent manner in order to deal more effectively with the OAM legacy.

The workshop objectives were:

  • To identify, better understand and assess the legal and institutional barriers, along with the preferred options that would allow third-parties to collaborate on clean-up and manage liabilities related to Orphaned/Abandoned Mines ; and
  • To develop recommendations and guiding principles for consideration by the National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Advisory Committee and possible transmittal to federal, provincial and territorial governments.

The workshop, attended by more than 60 people, began with welcoming remarks from the Chair of the OAM Advisory Committee. The remainder of Day 1 included a number of information-sharing presentations, each followed by an intensive plenary discussion:

  • Overview of the legal and institutional barriers to collaboration;
  • Review of Pennsylvania’s Environmental Good Samaritan Act and related initiatives;
  • Review of the us Federal Abandoned Hardrock Mines Reclamation Act of 2002 and related initiatives;
  • A presentation on Abandoned Mines in the North;
  • A review of the OMA/OMNDM Initiative; and,
  • Site-specific experiences from several Canadian jurisdictions.

Day 2 of the Workshop consisted of panel presentations (panelists were affiliated with each of the government and stakeholder interests attending the workshop) and a plenary discussion, as well as breakout group discussions and reports to plenary, on the priority barriers to collaboration and recommendations/guiding principles to overcome these barriers.

Several core themes and consequent participant support emerged throughout the course of the workshop. Many participants felt strongly about the need for a coordinated Good Samaritan legislation/policy framework at the federal and provincial levels to encourage volunteer activity and remove associated liabilities (volunteer indemnification). Many participants considered that success in addressing OAMs requires clearly articulated core principles, including the polluter pays, precaution and prevention principles, sustainability, and scientifically defensible, practical and consistent performance standards for OAMs. While there are many good ideas with regard to approaches to volunteerism, it is critical to think through how and where these ideas apply.

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Many participants felt that it is important to: recognize the existence/raise the profile of OAMs (in the political/legislative and public landscape); acknowledge that OAMs have to be dealt with and that help is needed; categorize and prioritize sites (e.g., simple vs. complex); conduct critical analyses of existing legislation and procedures to establish an approach to facilitate enabling processes; and/or develop a mechanism to guide OAM reclamation and facilitate cooperation. The need for a realistic policy and legislative framework that recognizes the responsibilities and rights of all players, including the public, and establishes common objectives was acknowledged. The process must be inclusive, transparent, multi-stakeholder and holistic. There were varying opinions on the need for new legislation – some felt that existing legislation could be used in creative ways to overcome barriers, while others saw the need to amend existing legislation or create new dedicated legislation.

Participants generally agreed on the need for better site-specific information, particularly to assess public health, safety, environmental and social impacts, and to develop baseline standards.

Improved cooperation, collaboration, communication, transparency, efficiency and simplification were perceived as crucial elements in any OAM efforts. A clearly articulated, inclusive role for stakeholders and the public, and in particular, affected communities, was considered important for many participants. Lack of funding was acknowledged as one of the most serious and fundamental stumbling blocks.

Many participants recognized the need to refine and accelerate the permit process (alleviate fiscal and temporal time constraints) to maximize the scarce dollars that go into remediation. Many felt that the current assessment and review processes could be more cost and time efficient. Building trust (across sectors and especially with affected communities) may be one way of increasing coordinated innovative solutions while at the same time reducing assessment and permitting costs. The need for common sense was also highlighted constantly – do what makes sense, getting as much done as possible with the limited resources available, but without compromising environmental and human health and safety. It was also recognized that while in many cases time-consuming and resource-intensive procedural requirements do create better projects, complex or lengthy procedural requirements can at times hinder effective completion of projects (e.g., projects that run out of money at the end of the fiscal year).

Related to this previous issue is the broader obstacle of the difference in policy and procedures between the different levels of government. A core set of principles that everyone can agree on needs to be established in the Good Samaritan legislation (recognizing that there may still be regional issues that must be dealt with), or a common set of standards that all players can work towards.

It was recognized that the optimism displayed by participants in the workshop was encouraging – while those involved in the issue may have different ideas, they are all generally moving in the same direction. It was also noted that workshop participants have demonstrated that they recognize and respect each other’s values, which goes a long way in achieving success.

It was noted that there needs to be more trust amongst stakeholders working in the field and, perhaps, more risk-taking. Trust among stakeholders can be built, in part by providing for non-compliance registries, community involvement, and the development of a consistent, comprehensive framework for action. Trust is important, but must be earned, which requires a holistic view of the entire mining process, especially the often forgotten but critical social context – affected communities must be considered and included in a meaningful way.

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The point was raised that if progress is to be made, all levels of government have to be adequately staffed and properly resourced to provide the research, planning, expertise, contracting, monitoring and oversight needed to address issues properly. Planning initiatives and consequent human and financial resource commitments must take into account that many projects will require lengthy timeframes to complete (5 to 10 years). A comprehensive new piece of legislation will not be effectively enforced if departments are faced with a serious lack of resources. The answer may be putting resources back into existing legislation, instead of creating new legislation.

The need for clear definitions was raised for terms such as OAM, volunteer, reclamation, and remediation (e.g., decide what is meant by reclamation or remediation and design a mechanism to define these terms on a site-specific basis). There is a need to develop consistent and coordinated procedures/standards to categorize different sites and to categorize different types of volunteers.

It was noted that there was a need for regulators to adjust their perspective to differentiate between more typical workload of approving projects for commercial gain versus projects for the common good, where commercial gain is not a factor.

One participant summed up the key issues addressed at the workshop in three words: prevention, investment and standards. The importance of precedents was also noted, which would clearly demonstrate what is achievable, what are the benefits of action, and the costs of inaction.

The Vice President, Technical Affairs, for The Mining Association of Canada closed the workshop by noting that the National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Advisory Committee will distil the results from the workshop and develop recommendations and a path forward. Recommendations will be submitted to Mines Ministers in September and participants will be kept apprised of initiatives as they evolve. In closing, it was noted that the work of the NOAMAC is gaining prominence and credibility steadily, both in Canada and abroad, as a unique multi-stakeholder initiative constructively and effectively addressing orphaned and abandoned mines. By continuing to work on this issue in an open, creative and collaborative way, all stakeholders can demonstrate their commitment and resolve to finding solutions that will benefit the environment, civil society, governments and the mining industry in the short and long term.

 
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Last updated: 2003-09-26

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