Scrutiny of water-use policies and regulations, and concern that provincial governments across Canada need to better regulate industrial water use, have become more prominent in recent years, particularly after the recent droughts in B.C. and Alberta.
This increased scrutiny of the impacts of mining operations on surface and groundwater could have broad implications for mining and energy projects, including curtailing project development through the refusal to issue or renew water licences on terms that make mining projects feasible.
A recent example includes a Northwest Territories mining project where the regulator has warned the project proponent that it could lose one of its water licences for failure to comply with requirements for spring water sampling. Other examples from the energy sector should also be considered highly relevant to Canada’s miners.
Of note is the British Columbia government’s 2015 decision to cancel a pre-existing water licence related to fracking activities after the government’s determination that the original issuance was based on poor science and that the proponent did not properly consult with the affected First Nations.
In some Canadian jurisdictions, the statutory regime is catching up with the increasing concerns around water use by the natural resource sector. For example, in B.C., the provincial government passed a Water Sustainability Act in May 2014 that introduces the first substantial changes to the province’s water-use laws in over 100 years.
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