Good afternoon to all of the members and thank you for this invitation to testify before you today.
I'm sorry that I didn't get a chance to send my submission ahead of time. I was feeling ill yesterday and am on the cusp today, so I'll do my best.
I will answer questions in French or in English after my statement.
At the end of my presentation, I also have a submission to make to you on behalf of a joint group of industry partners and environmental groups.
The Mining Association of Canada is the national organization of the Canadian mining industry. We represent companies engaged in mineral exploration, mining, smelting, refining, and semi-fabrication. We account for the vast majority of Canada's output of metals and major industrial minerals. In 2005, the MAC was honoured by the GLOBE Foundation, winning an industry association award for environmental performance for our “Towards Sustainable Mining” initiative, which requires companies to report and score themselves on a variety of different sustainability indicators.
As one of the world's largest producers of minerals and metals, Canada has prospered over the past two decades from mineral policies that benefit all Canadians. Canada is recognized as an industrial leader in mining, with mineral exploration, production, and supply and service companies second to none in the world and the envy of all mineral-producing nations. One just has to go to the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada's 20,000-person conference every year in Toronto to see how the world comes to Canada when it comes to mining.
MAC, like FPAC and the Fisheries Council, as well as many of our other industrial partners, has worked with non-government stakeholders and government officials from the very beginning of the debate on the Species at Risk Act. We were a member of the species at risk working group, along with FPAC, the Sierra Club Canada, Nature Canada, and the Canadian Wildlife Federation, providing the government with joint recommendations during the act's nine years of development. Since SARA was proclaimed, MAC has been an active member of the species at risk advisory committee to the ministers for the environment and DFO.
Just recently, we approved a policy framework on biodiversity conservation for MAC members. I have it right here and can provide a copy. It states: “MAC members recognize that access to land and a company's social license depend upon responsible social, environmental, and economic practices and that there is a strong business case for supporting biodiversity conservation”.
The policy statement goes on to say that “MAC members will work with key communities of interest to develop and implement responsible policies and practices to...integrate the importance of biodiversity conservation, including respect for critical habitat, into mining and land-use planning and management strategies, including considering the option of not proceeding with a project”. That's just part of the framework. Just last November, the MAC membership approved a new indicator, and MAC members will be scoring themselves on biodiversity conservation in the future and making all of that public.
MAC members have quite a bit of experience in working with species at risk. I'd like to provide you with a few examples.
The Xstrata Nickel Raglan Mine in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, announced last May that they were investing $350,000 in a large-scale research program that aims to further understand the dynamics and space use of migratory caribou populations in Quebec and Labrador in the current climate change context.
Vale Inco in Newfoundland has supported research on and transplanting of the globally critically endangered boreal felt lichen, stemming back to the 1990s. Canada and Newfoundland have one of the last remaining major sources of population of this lichen. That investment over the last seven years was again over $350,000 for the research.
Vale Inco in Manitoba has mineral leases covering 140 square kilometres. The land is used by two herds of boreal caribou. Vale Inco has partnered with the northeast regional woodland caribou advisory committee to work on recovery planning.
Another Vale Inco operation, this one in Sudbury, is dealing with the peregrine falcon issue in an open pit mine, where a peregrine falcon is actually nesting in the mine, on the cliff, and there is another peregrine falcon nest in a building that contains some toxic chemicals and is scheduled for demolition and refurbishing. In both cases, Vale Inco is working with bird biologists to set up nesting boxes and with the Ministry of Natural Resources to try to figure out how to operate the mine and how not to disturb the peregrine falcon and ensure its recovery.
Based on all that experience, MAC members do have some recommendations to the committee. They are very similar to the recommendations you have heard from the forest products and other industry associations.
In our first recommendation, we encourage the federal departments to speed up the development of definitions, policies, programs, and regulations under SARA. It has been five years since the coming into force of this legislation and there are still many questions on many aspects of the implementation of the act. We don't know what the definitions are for "effective protection" and "critical habitat". Recovery plans are late. COSEWIC does not have enough money to produce species assessments. Policies on issues such as stewardship agreements, compensation programs, and permitting systems, etc., have not been developed, and this is leading to uncertainty.
We recommend fully funding the species at risk branches within the Department of the Environment, Parks Canada, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to allow for timely development of policies, procedures, and programs. We also believe that COSEWIC needs full funding.
Our second recommendation is around amending SARA to provide longer permitting time and to deal with existing facilities, which is the same issue that Andrew brought up. Mines last for 10 years minimum and for 80 years in some cases. Some communities are built on a mine; Sudbury is an example. So we need some kind of mechanism to allow a permit before you make such a major investment. In our case, there is also going to be the need for some kind of grandfathering of existing mine sites.
Our third recommendation is, again, around the promotion of conservation agreements. As far as we are aware, there have been no conservation agreements signed since the beginning of SARA's implementation, and we think the provision for conservation agreements should be expanded and encouraged with mining companies and other industrial people on the landscape.
Finally, we believe that COSEWIC and RENEW should be mandated to consult with private sector entities for information on species status. Many of our companies take down data on which species are coming near or around their facilities. In fact, they all do. That information should go into the development of recovery plans and action plans as well.
Now I need to read some specific wording for you.
A number of organizations representing some of Canada's most prominent resource-based industries have prepared submissions to this committee in respect of the SARA statutory review. A number of these organizations, along with several that have not made specific submissions, and the multiple entities they represent, have a common concern over the difficulty in obtaining authorization for their activities under SARA despite being extremely involved in local recovery efforts in cooperation with government agencies.
These groups formed an alliance to develop specific proposals for amendments to SARA to alleviate these concerns. To that end, they prepared a draft brief submission to this committee regarding the common issues they face and proposed fixes to SARA to deal with them.
A number of environmental non-governmental organizations have also prepared submissions to the committee with respect to amendments that they submit are necessary for SARA to be properly implemented. You will hear many of their recommendations on April 27, when they appear before this committee.
In the past few weeks, the joint industry partners and the ENGOs have instituted a process to discuss their respective proposals and to determine whether or not there is potential to come to agreement on the amendments that are needed to address the deficiencies both groups have identified in SARA. The specific issues the joint group has been discussing are as follows: the issuing of permits; conservation agreements; decisions not to list a species; action plans and recovery strategies; and definitions of survival and recovery.
Both groups have determined that in some of these areas there is general agreement on a need for improvement and the approach to be taken to the amendments. However, coming to agreement on the details of the specific wording of the solutions is, perhaps not surprisingly, proving to be a difficult task in some areas.
Nevertheless, the parties are hopeful that the discussion will proceed quickly enough--we have been having weekly conference calls--that they will be able to be in a position to provide this committee with an agreement on proposals for amendments before the committee completes its review. Both groups are asking this committee to direct Environment Canada and the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans to prepare recommendations regarding SARA to provide for an effective framework.