In February 2011 the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (NL) began a process to develop a mineral strategy for the province. This is a welcome initiative as the last comprehensive policy review for the mineral sector was in the 1970s. As a starting point the government released a discusion paper and then hosted a number of community consultations and two themed workshops. Details about the Mineral Strategy project can be found here. NL has significant mining operations and several active areas of mineral exploration. NL's mining sector is dominated by the iron ore mines of western Labrador that make the province the largest source of iron ore in Canada. It's four other operating metal mines make NL the second largest producer of nickel and the third largest producer of copper. Another five mines are in develoment.
Important issues that have emerged in the NL mineral sector in recent years include the year-long strike at the Voisey's Bay mine, the Nunatsiavut (Labrador Inuit Government) moratorium on uranium exploration, and the destruction of Trout Pond and Sandy Pond for mine waste dumps.
MiningWatch was in communication with provincial environmental groups and the United Steel Workers leading up to our participation in a workshop titled Environment Sustainable Mining held in St. John's on April 7 and prior to submitting our written comments on April 14. We identified the following key issues and provided commentary on them during the workshop and in our written submission:
- Including sustainability as a framework for the strategy and harmonizing the strategy with the NL Sustainability Act (2007)
- Balancing access to land by respecting aboriginal rights and completing the provinces protected areas network
- Curtailing perverse subsidies, tax benefits and program spending
- Ensuring lasting social benefits through appropriate taxation levels and investment of mineral royalties
- Reducing the potential for labour conflict by eliminating regressive replacement worker legislation
- Reducing the environmental legacy of mining through rehabilitation of abandoned mine sites
- Improving current environmental standards through sustainability assessment of proposed mines and promoting measures to reduce green house gas emissions
- Improving transparency and accountability through public disclosure of monitoring reports conducted by industry and government
- Ending the use of healthy, productive natural water bodies for tailings impoundments
- Reviewing the province's support for uranium exploraiton and mining
Written submissions and workshop summaries are avaialable on the Mineral Strategy web site.