Authors: Kuzyk, T; Gregory, G; Pedlar-Hobbs, R

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Kuzyk, T, Gregory, G & Pedlar-Hobbs, R 2023, 'New opportunities for collaborative closure planning in Canadian regulatory frameworks', in B Abbasi, J Parshley, A Fourie & M Tibbett (eds), Mine Closure 2023: Proceedings of the 16th International Conference on Mine Closure, Australian Centre for Geomechanics, Perth,

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Environmental approval of major projects was transferred to the newly created Impact Assessment Agency of Canada (IAAC) in 2019, bringing into being the Impact Assessment Act (SC 2019, c 28, s 1). The Act represents the first time that conspicuous consideration of impacts to Indigenous rights have been legislated as part of the Environmental Assessment process for major projects in Canada. In the province of British Columbia (BC), the joint federal and provincial application is now seeing its first successful applicants move through this new legislation. Under IAAC, there is also an increased expectation of and emphasis on collaboration with impacted Indigenous groups—a change from the recent standard of consultation and the development of Impact or Mutual Benefit Agreements. On one hand, an increased focus on collaboration can appear to constrain operators’ independent decision-making capacity and corresponding timeframes for mine life planning, including progressive reclamation, closure, and returning land use possibilities. On the other, a focus on collaborative and mutually beneficial outcomes allows for the development of integrated closure plans and post-closure land use planning that more conspicuously align with stakeholder and Indigenous groups’ values and priorities and, in doing so, may reduce (financial and environmental) liabilities associated with closure. Given how novel the IAAC process is, no major mine has yet made it through the complete process that would provide evidence of how enhanced collaboration affects closure planning. However, we can examine in-process studies for directional indications of how the novel IAAC process relates to closure. In this paper, we review a combination of publicly available case studies for major capital projects in BC where productive collaboration and engagement with Indigenous and external stakeholders is being taken as a business imperative, and where mines are working to develop more fully integrated closure approaches. In doing so, we provide a preliminary outline of best practices in collaborative closure planning in western Canada.

Keywords: Integrated closure; stakeholder engagement; post-closure visioning; collaboration; sustainable mine planning; Indigenous

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