Geotechnical Society of Edmonton

NEWS 2015

Posted September 1, 2015 (Updated October 21, 2015)

Event: November 5, 2015

GSE: Mr. Keith Cunningham, Senior Analyst, Ministry of the Economy, Government of Saskatchewan - Post-Closure Stewardship of Mine Sites - Saskatchewan's Institutional Control Program

Location: Woodvale Facility, Millwoods Golf Course (4540 - 50 Street)

Time: 5:30 Registration, 6:00pm Appetizers, 6:30pm Presentation

Cost: $30 Members, $40 Non-Members, $10 Students

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Please register for this event using the Google Form by November 1, 2015.

Environmental practices and regulations have advanced significantly since Canadian mine operations were developed in the early 1900's and now cover all aspects of construction and operation. Similarly, most jurisdictions around the world now also require mining operations to prepare closure plans and to post a bond or other financial assurances of sufficient value to cover the cost of closure from the time a mine is first approved. However, few jurisdictions have developed a formal institutional control management framework that provides for custodial transfer and the effective long-term stewardship of sites once the operator has fulfilled its closure obligations and is eligible for release from further financial bonding (closed sites). Post-closure management of such sites is an issue that has been identified by the public, industry and government stakeholders.

The Province of Saskatchewan successfully undertook the processes necessary to develop a formal, effective Institutional Control Program (ICP) that defines the conditions under which it will accept custodial responsibility for closed mine sites and provide for the long-term stewardship of each site. The process was undertaken by a working group composed of representatives from the Ministries of Environment, Energy and Resources, Northern Affairs, Justice, Finance and Executive Council led by a consultant. It was initiated in 2005 with a comprehensive assessment of policy and legislative requirements, risks and liabilities associated with undertaking such a program and extensive consultations with industry, Aboriginal traditional users and other stakeholders in order to secure their input, inclusion and support. The entire process was completed with the promulgation of the Reclaimed Industrial Sites Act and associated Regulations in 2007 and the formal acceptance of the first mine sites in 2009.

The Saskatchewan IC P addresses all aspects of conventional closed mines, as well as the uranium specific issues of radioactive waste management, including those defined in the articles of the IAEA's Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, all applicable provincial Acts and regulations and the federal Nuclear Safety and Control Act. The program includes a formal, publically accessible Registry and document repository, has been designed to be revenue neutral, sustainable and to ensure that future generations are not burdened with the costs of the long-term monitoring and maintenance of former mine sites in the province. In addition, the Saskatchewan Ministry of the Environment now includes the cost for transferring a closed site into the IC program as a component of the financial assurance required for operating sites.

Since its inception, the Saskatchewan IC program has accepted one gold mine/mill and five uranium mine sites into the IC Registry and completed the first of the requisite scheduled inspection of each registered site. This case history describes the actions and process used to develop the program, discuss the challenges encountered and summarizes the outcomes of the creation of a sustainable formal institutional control management framework in Saskatchewan.

Keith Cunningham, P.Eng. has over 30 years' experience in the petroleum and mining industries. Keith graduated from the University of Saskatchewan and initially worked in the Alberta petroleum industry before returning to Saskatchewan and employment with the Petroleum and Natural Gas division of the provincial government. Keith currently works in the Mineral Lands and Resource Policy division on metallic mineral issues and has had detailed involvement with the province's Institutional Control Program for post-closure management from development through to implementation and is responsible for managing the program.

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