This summer, the province of Quebec has seen several new developments that may have a significant impact on the mining sector: the introduction of Bill 55 on transparency measures, the issuance by the BAPE of its report on uranium exploration, and the publication by the Secrétariat aux affaires autochtones of an informative document for developers regarding relations with aboriginal communities.
Bill 55: An Act respecting transparency measures in the mining, oil and gas industries
With the federal Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act coming into effect at the beginning of the summer, transparency measures have been at the centre of Quebec’s Government recent concerns. Bill 55 was tabled by Quebec’s Minister for Mines on June 11, 2015, with the aim of enhancing transparency measures in the mining, oil and gas industries. These measures are intended to discourage and detect corruption, and to foster the social acceptability of natural resource exploration and development projects.
If adopted, the Act would apply to organizations that engage in the exploration or development of mineral substances or hydrocarbons, and that have a significant presence in Quebec. Businesses that transport hydrocarbons rather than produce them, such as pipeline companies, will not be subject to the Act.
Annual statement, oversight by the AMF and penalties
Bill 55 proposes that the subjected entities will have to annually report all payments, equal to or greater than $100,000, made to the same payee. Once submitted to the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), the statements will be public for five years.
In addition to its general powers of investigation, the AMF will be empowered to require the communication of any information deemed useful for the purposes of the Act. Moreover, the AMF may impose penalties to any party subject to the provisions of the Act for non-compliance.
“Payees” under Bill 55
The payments subject to the above requirement include all those made to the government, a body established by two or more governments, a municipality, the Kativik Regional Government, a First Nation, an entity that exercises powers or duties of government or any other beneficiary designated by regulation of the government.
At the present time, special consultations and public hearings on Bill 55 are being held.
BAPE report on potential uranium mining operations in Quebec
Since the start, the idea of uranium exploration in Quebec has raised concerns on security and environmental impacts. As a result, the Government has taken measures to assess the sustainability and the feasibility of the uranium projects in the province. During the last year, the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) held several public consultations in order to establish the potential of uranium mining operations in Quebec. In its report to the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and the Fight against Climate Change dated May 20, 2015, the BAPE concluded that allowing such operations would be counter-productive in the current context.
According to the BAPE, there is a lack of reliable data on the possible impacts of long-term uranium exposure.
The public consultations conducted by the BAPE rapidly revealed that social acceptability would be an issue if the province was to allow uranium mining operations. Also, several parties, including Aboriginal communities, expressed their restraint based on the potential risks associated with uranium exploration and the vagueness surrounding the management of radioactive tailings.
The BAPE concludes that a proper long-term risk management plan is essential if the Government wants to go forward and allow uranium exploration. The costs anticipated with the uranium waste storage is one issue that has to be evaluated.
Relations with Aboriginal communities: Quebec publishes an informative document for developers
The Government recently published an informative document on Aboriginal factors to be considered by any developer contemplating a natural resource development project, Information for Developers and General Information Regarding Relations with Aboriginal Communities in Natural Resource Development Projects. It provides avenues for establishing harmonious and constructive relationships between developers and aboriginal communities.
Steps that can be taken by developers
It is recommended that developers establish regular contact with the communities that could potentially be affected by their projects, notably at the preliminary phase in order to learn about the Aboriginal communities’ concerns and expectations.
Buteau and Labeau are partners at Norton Rose Fulbright’s Quebec office.