Public consultation goes on all the time concerning mining projects, usually when comments are solicited on the environmental impact statement for a particular project. The EIS is usually complete, and the project owner has spent a considerable amount of money and several years getting the report to this point. The owner has filed it with the requisite government agency, and the agency posts it where it is accessible to the public. Then hearings are set up to collect what the public sees as the pros and cons of the project.
Government considers all the differing points of view, the scientific validity of the proposals to mitigate environmental risk. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has set Oct. 22, 2012, as the deadline for written comments on the Fire Lake North project belonging to Champion Iron Mines. In the case of of the Kami project that belongs to Alderon Iron Ore Corp., written comments must be submitted by Nov. 20, 2012, as both the federal agency and the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Environment and Conservation are involved.
Following comments and review, the EIS usually goes back to the property owner with instructions to change this thing and that. The owner then spends more time and money addressing potential shortfalls in its plans.
It’s a cumbersome, expensive and time-consuming process. Could the whole thing be made more efficient?
Perhaps the approach Syncrude of Edmonton is taking for new oil sands mining projects near Fort McMurray, AB, can point the way. The Mildred Lake mine extension project will provide a replacement supply of bitumen for upgrading when the existing mine approaches the end of its oil sands deposit. The two new mining areas are adjacent to the current mine at Mildred Lake and will use existing ore crushing and extraction facilities.
The company has begun initial scoping studies and already it is going to release a document about the projects for public consultation. Syncrude is inviting all stakeholders to examine the plans. The company is making time for meaningful and effective consultation.
Rather than wait for the full EIS later in the planning process, Syncrude looks to be ahead of the game. Early consultation will allow it to address any concerns before the EIS is submitted. Hopefully, government will recognize during the review that the document reflects the wishes of all stakeholders. The EIS will not have to go back to the company for a complicated and lengthy rewrite.
Time saved is money saved.