The Minerals and Metals Policy of the Government of Canada
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The Minerals and Metals Policy of the Government of Canada: Partnerships for Sustainable Development sets out, within areas of federal jurisdiction, the Government’s role, objectives and strategies for the sustainable development of Canada’s mineral and metal resources.1 The Policy builds on relevant federal policy initiatives, including Creating Opportunity, the Government’s Mining Agenda, A Guide to Green Government, and the Toxic Substances Management Policy. It also builds on Sustainable Development and Minerals and Metals: An Issues Paper, which was released by the Minister of Natural Resources in September 1995. That Paper developed a conceptual foundation for the application of sustainable development to minerals and metals.
The Policy represents an important step by the federal government to advance the principles and goals of the Whitehorse Mining Initiative (WMI). WMI participants – industry, the environmental community, Aboriginal groups, labour, academics, and federal, provincial and territorial governments – developed in their Leadership Council Accord a shared vision of a “socially, economically and environmentally sustainable, and prosperous mining industry, underpinned by political and community consensus.”
In developing this document, the Government has consulted widely with stakeholders, including provincial and territorial governments, as well as others associated with the WMI.
The Policy defines a flexible and supportive role for the Government of Canada towards the minerals and metals industry. It recognizes the responsibilities of the provincial and territorial governments and their need – with industry – to respond to their particular circumstances and challenges. The Policy is not a uniform, national blueprint for mineral development or the implementation of sustainable development. This would be incompatible with Canada’s federal structure, and the realities of both a large and diverse country and a heterogeneous minerals and metals industry.
is committed to forging
While the Minister of Natural Resources has principal responsibility for this Policy, it also touches on the responsibilities and mandates of a number of other federal ministers. Furthermore, this Policy is intended to be consistent with approved government policies that advance the Government’s economic, social and environmental agendas, including those related to, for example, protected areas, toxic substances, and fiscal matters.
The Policy contributes to three central elements of the federal government’s agenda:
…the minerals and metals
industry is a major
contributor to Canada’s
A cornerstone of the Policy is that the minerals and metals industry is a major contributor to Canada’s economic well-being. It is also vital to the economic and social cohesion of many rural and remote communities. The Policy recognizes that Canada faces increased global competition for investors and capital, and that if this competition is not adequately addressed, the industry’s ability to generate wealth and employment for Canadians will seriously diminish. Consequently, the document addresses those areas within federal jurisdiction that are important to attracting new investment and establishing a positive investment climate internationally.
The Policy helps the federal government to meet its commitment to define a renewed and more effective relationship with the provinces and territories in the area of minerals and metals. The document is based on a fundamental recognition by the Government of Canada of provincial ownership and management of mineral resources. Within this context, the Policy delineates a role for the federal government in relation to the Canadian minerals and metals industry that is focused on core federal responsibilities.
The Government is committed to meeting the challenge of sustainable development in its policies and programs. The Policy supports this goal by defining sustainable development in relation to minerals and metals, and outlining a federal approach to decision-making for minerals and metals issues based on this important concept. It also sets out policy and science directions for addressing specific minerals- and metals-related concerns in the context of sustainable development.
Minerals and metals are, and will continue to be, of vital interest to Canada and, consequently, to federal policy and program agendas in the years ahead. There are two reasons for this:
Canada’s minerals and metals industry:2
- is a world leader in the production of many mineral and metal commodities, of which approximately 80 percent are exported;
- is a capital-intensive, high-technology-driven industrial sector that plays an important role in Canada’s “new economy” as a purchaser of advanced technological goods and services, a supplier of new materials, and a significant employer;
- is one of the few industrial sectors that consistently contributes to Canada’s balance of trade – representing over one third of our merchandise trade surplus in 1995;
- accounts for almost 60 percent of the volume of Canada’s rail and intra-coastal freight;
- currently employs more than 340,000 Canadians and sustains or contributes to the economic viability of over 150 communities, mostly in rural and remote areas of Canada; and
- generates substantial additional employment for Canadians, not only in mineral exploration, production and processing, but also in environmental services and in a range of supporting, value-added and down-stream sectors such as transportation, equipment maintenance, specialized equipment manufacturing, semifabrication, fabrication, and construction.
Many of the factors that affect the ability of the minerals and metals industry to continue to make this contribution are within the policy purview of the federal government.
The second reason why minerals and metals will continue to be important to the federal government has two inter-related dimensions:
- the increasingly global nature of today’s minerals and metals industry; and
- the mounting need for governments around the world to collaborate in the development of solutions to environmental concerns and other challenges.
…Canada must continue to
be an active, effective and
influential partner on the
The globalization of the industry and the international scope of many issues, including environmental concerns, has changed the landscape for policy-making in ways that are being addressed by the federal government. New issues frequently, and sometimes unexpectedly, emerge beyond our borders, challenging the Government to respond in an effective and flexible manner. International organizations and institutional mechanisms have become important venues for resolving social, economic and environmental concerns. As a consequence, Canada must continue to be an active, effective and influential partner on the international stage, both at the multilateral and bilateral levels. We will need to forge stronger partnerships with countries that share our views and concerns, and to promote our interests vigorously and persuasively in all international spheres in order to manage effectively our participation in international organizations, processes and relations.
Globalization presents both challenges and opportunities for Canada. Successive trade liberalization efforts by the members of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade/World Trade Organization (GATT/WTO) have resulted in markets that are more open to exports of Canadian minerals and metals and their products. The conclusion of the GATT Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations promises to extend these open markets to trade in services and eventually foreign investment.
Concurrent with this trend towards more open trade and a greater reliance on trade rules, there has also been a significant change in attitudes towards foreign investment. Where many governments were once hesitant to accept this investment in their minerals and metals sector, they now actively compete to attract it. As a consequence, Canada must compete aggressively for a share of finite investment capital. All governments in Canada must work together to ensure that a positive investment climate is maintained and that potential foreign investors are made aware of what Canada has to offer as a destination for capital.
…Canada must compete
aggressively for a share of
finite investment capital.
As a world leader in the exploration for, and production and export of, minerals and metals, their products, and related services, Canada also has considerable interest and expertise in questions involving these commodities in relation to human health and the environment. Canadian industry and governments have made substantial progress in avoiding or mitigating the adverse environmental effects of minerals- and metals-related activities and products. However, there remains an ongoing need for policy coordination to promote the efficient use of scientific and other resources.
The growing influence on domestic issues of internationally driven initiatives and trends must also be reflected in domestic policy- and decision-making processes. In a global economy, the federal government must be sensitive to international developments in order to maintain competitiveness and ensure that policy responses at the international level do not have a negative impact on national interests. As a consequence, the Government must take international factors into account in assessing and responding to emerging domestic issues that may affect the minerals and metals industry.
Provincial governments are responsible for mining – the exploration for, and the development and extraction of, mineral resources, and the construction, management, reclamation and close-out of mine sites – within their jurisdiction. Comparable, direct federal involvement in the regulation of mining operations is limited and specific in nature. It includes uranium in the context of the nuclear fuel cycle (i.e., from exploration through to its final disposal, including both reactor and mine waste), mineral activities related to federal Crown corporations, and mineral activities on federal lands and in offshore areas.
Provincial governments are
responsible for mining…
In particular, the federal government, through the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, is directly responsible for mining activities North of 60°, including mineral exploration and extraction, the development, management and reclamation of mine sites, and the collection of resource revenues and royalties in the Yukon and Northwest Territories. The Government, however, is committed to reducing its role North of 60° by devolving provincial-type jurisdictional responsibilities to the territorial governments. Devolution of these responsibilities will result in “made in the North” decision-making concerning the development of mineral resources in the Territories.
Since 1994, the federal government has reduced and refocused its role in minerals and metals. For example, it has withdrawn from programs providing direct financial support to the industry and has significantly streamlined the organization and budget of Natural Resources Canada, the focal point of minerals and metals activities at the federal level. This action reflects the Government’s commitment – which was also expressed in the 1996 Speech from the Throne – to operate only in areas of federal jurisdiction, and to do so in a cost-effective manner.
This action reflects the
to operate only in areas of
While its direct involvement in mining operations is limited, and its minerals- and metals-related activities are reduced and streamlined, the Government recognizes the importance of the industry to Canadians. It also clearly understands that its policies – particularly those of a fiscal nature – and its various regulatory responsibilities in areas such as environmental protection, fisheries management, navigable waters, and taxation, significantly affect the minerals and metals industry. Core federal responsibilities relevant to the industry include:
- international affairs, trade, and investment;
- fiscal and monetary policy;
- science and technology;
- Aboriginal affairs;
- Crown corporations and federal lands;
- environmental protection and conservation (a shared responsibility with the provinces);
- integrated management of ocean-related activities;
- fisheries and fish habitat management;
- navigable waters management;
- health (a shared responsibility with the provinces);
- national coordination of joint federal-provincial responses to policy issues;
- international developmental assistance;
- regulation of all activities related to mineral development in the territories;
- national information and statistics on minerals and metals; and
- nuclear energy, including uranium mining.
Partnerships with the provinces in their role as owners and managers of mineral resources are an essential and fundamental feature of how the federal government does, and will continue to, conduct business in the minerals and metals area. Partnerships with other stakeholders, particularly the industry and non-governmental organizations, are also important factors in the federal government’s approach to managing minerals and metals issues within its jurisdiction.
Building and strengthening partnerships and using consultative approaches are also important aspects of ensuring Canada’s continued influential role in international organizations and other global fora that touch on minerals and metals issues.
As a priority, therefore, the Government’s responsibilities will be exercised and solutions achieved by strengthening existing collaborative and consultative mechanisms. Where appropriate, new bilateral and multilateral vehicles will be developed in an effort to reflect the diversity of stakeholder interests.
While nurturing these partnership vehicles, the Government remains committed to eliminating any remaining inefficiencies resulting from shared jurisdictions and developing more efficient and effective arrangements for the delivery of services.
“development that meets the
needs of the present without
compromising the ability of
future generations to meet
their own needs.”
The World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission) defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This definition has been accepted by the Government of Canada and represents a point of departure for applying the concept to minerals and metals. As a building block of this Policy, sustainable development in the context of minerals and metals is considered as incorporating the following elements:
- finding, extracting, producing, adding value to, using, re-using, recycling and, when necessary, disposing of mineral and metal products in the most efficient, competitive and environmentally responsible manner possible, utilizing best practices;
- respecting the needs and values of all resource users, and considering those needs and values in government decision-making;
- maintaining or enhancing the quality of life and the environment for present and future generations; and
- securing the involvement and participation of stakeholders, individuals and communities in decision-making.
In defining sustainable development in the context of minerals and metals, it should be recognized that the economic and social benefits of mineral development are not all consumed by the present generation. Current investments in human and physical capital benefit future as well as present generations.
In meeting the desire of Canadians for economic growth and job creation, a more efficient and effective federation, and the implementation of sustainable development, the Government of Canada has established in this document six principal policy objectives:
- to integrate the concept of sustainable development in federal decision-making affecting the minerals and metals industry;
- to ensure the international competitiveness of Canada’s minerals and metals industry in the context of an open and liberal global trade and investment framework;
- to advance the concept of sustainable development of minerals and metals at the international level through partnerships with other countries, stakeholders, and multilateral institutions and organizations;
- to establish Canada as a global leader in promoting the safe use of minerals and metals, and their related products;
- to promote Aboriginal involvement in mineralsand metals-related activities; and
- to provide a framework for the development and application of science and technology to enhance the industry’s competitiveness and environmental stewardship.
Within these broad objectives are specific policy initiatives and approaches that constitute the Government of Canada’s strategy for minerals and metals. Consistent with federal fiscal objectives, all activities are to be undertaken within available financial resources.
2 For the purposes of this Policy, the minerals and metals industry is defined as including:
Stage I: primary mineral production (exploration, mining and concentrating);
Stage II: metal production (smelting and refining);
Stage III: minerals and metals-based semi-fabricating indutries; and
Stage IV: metal fabricating industries.