For almost two years now, federal, provincial governments, the mining industry, Canadian Environmental Network representatives and Aboriginal reps have been working to form the National Orphaned/Abandoned Mines Initiative (NOAMI), based on recommendations made in a report commissioned by MiningWatch Canada from Sudbury geologist Bill Mackasey in 2000.
The working group reports to the Mines Ministers annually. Funding for the Initiative is minimal: $5000 from each government and federal department, some resources from the Mining Association of Canada and the Prospectors and Developers Association, all of which is negotiated annually.
Principles agreed to at a conference of different interest groups in Winnipeg in June 2001, guide the working group:
- The remediation of abandoned mines sites must be based on concern for public health and safety, respect for ecological integrity, and sustainable development;
- All work currently on-going with respect to inventorying and remediation must continue based on sound science and good communication among all parties;
- Work toward eliminating future abandonments must continue, including the tightening of regulatory approaches;
- Implement the "polluter pays" principle;
- Targeted end-use and reclamation standards must be acceptable to the local communities;
- Although the objective must be comprehensive reclamation of all sites, the approach must be cost-effective and based on an acceptable method of priorizing sites;
- Transparency and disclosure must be present in all decision-making processes;
- Encompass the notion of "fairness" in all endeavours.
NOAMI has set up a number of Task Groups to deal with the work identified at the conference:
- Inventory: Responsible for the development of capacity for a national inventory of active, closed, and orphaned/abandoned mine sites based on compatible inventories in each province and territory, and including a nationally acceptable categorization and priority-ranking system. This task group is chaired by Gilles Tremblay at CANMET.
- Community Involvement: Responsible for developing a plan to foster community involvement in decision-making about closure and reclamation standards, and to ensure that targeted end-use and reclamation standards are acceptable to local communities. This Task Group is chaired by Joan Kuyek of MiningWatch Canada
- Legislative Approaches: Evaluating the efficacy of approaches including: "Good Samaritan legislation", "permit-blocking", "non-compliance registries", and "allocative" vs. "joint and several" liability. Chaired by Elizabeth Gardiner of the Mining Association, this Task Group includes Brennain Lloyd of Northwatch. This group will be holding a workshop on February 24-25 in Ottawa.
- Funding Models: Evaluating models and mechanisms to pay for the remediation of orphaned/abandoned sites, including insurance options and contingency funds. Probably the most contentious of the Task Groups, it is chaired by Patrick Reid of the Ontario Mining Association and includes Kevin O'Reilly of CARC.
NOAMI now has a website where reports from the Task Groups can be viewed at www.abandoned-mines.org