Gold mining industry in Canada: a legal overview

The gold mining industry in Canada is regulated by laws, licences and other requirements. Find out more about these regulations in this article
Gold mining industry in Canada: a legal overview

In 2022, gold had a production value of $13.2 billion according to the Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), making it one of the most valuable mined commodities in the country.

We can say that the gold mining industry in Canada will continue to thrive, not just in the Canadian Shield but also in other parts of the country.

To make gold mining profitable and sustainable, mining companies should know what laws apply and how the industry is regulated. We’ll discuss that in this article.

How is the mining industry regulated in Canada?

Canada’s mining industry is regulated by both the federal and provincial governments. While there are laws at both levels, these laws differ in the ways they’re applied.

It also involves many regulating authorities which mining companies must work with, both with the federal and provincial governments. This highlights the importance of hiring mining lawyers who specialize in a specific province or territory, as these laws will vary from one area to another.

Provincial laws on mining

The bulk of the laws that mining companies must follow are the provincial mines and minerals act. These laws take effect from the early days of mining production, such as applying for the necessary permits for exploration, up to its closure and reclamation.

In Ontario where the majority of gold mines are found, the Mining Act and its Regulations are the prevailing laws on gold mining.

In other provinces, there are other laws aside from their mines acts (or other similar laws) that govern other aspects of mining. In British Columbia, it also has the Mineral Tenure Act, Mineral Land Tax Act, and other mining laws.

In 2023, Ontario introduced a new law named Building More Mines Act, which amended the province’s Mining Act. It also passed and received Royal Assent that same year. Know more about this law with this video:

Québec is another province where the gold mining industry in Canada is thriving. Contact one of the Lexpert-ranked best mining lawyers in Québec for help with your mining operations.

Federal laws concerning the mining industry

Even though there is no main federal law that governs the mining industry in Canada, there are other federal statutes that affect mining activities. Here are some of these federal statutes that are related to Canada’s mining industry:

  • Environmental laws: Canadian Environmental Protection Act and Impact Assessment Act
  • Competition laws: Competition Act and Investment Canada Act
  • Tax laws: Income Tax Act

These federal laws are not exclusive – there may be similar laws in the provinces on the same subject matter that will also apply to mining companies. For example, federal tax and environmental protection laws may overlap with provincial laws on similar matters.

Regulatory bodies for the mining industry

Each province has its own regulatory body covering the mining industry in its area. Here are examples of these bodies in some of the provinces where the gold mining industry in Canada can be found:

  • Ontario: Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines
  • Québec: Ministère des Ressources naturelles et des Forêts
  • British Columbia: Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation

This is in addition to the federal bodies, such as the NRCAn, that mining companies will also have to deal with.

Are there specific laws that apply to the gold mining industry in Canada?

The gold mining industry in Canada is generally covered by the same set of laws for mining operations of other minerals and resources.

Exploration for gold and other minerals

Activities such as prospecting and exploration, including all its affiliated permits, claims, and licences, are governed by the provincial mining laws. Before any gold exploration can be done, an interested entity must first get a prospector’s licence. This will allow the holder to survey the area for minerals.

For prospectors to obtain exploration rights, which are on a first-come first-served basis, a mineral claim must be “staked” with the provincial mining regulator.

After exploration programs are finished and reserves (such as gold reserves) have been identified, the mining company must now obtain the necessary mining lease.

This is aside from the other permits and licences to operate a gold mine, as required by the applicable provincial mining law.

Sustainable mining

With all these requirements, gold mining companies must not lose sight of other laws, such as Indigenous and environmental laws.

For instance, consultations may be required with the Indigenous and Aboriginal groups located in the area, or additional permits may be required by a local environmental law.

In other areas, requirements to answer the mining company’s social responsibility may also be imposed – from its exploration processes, up to closure of the mining operations.

Operation of gold mines

A gold mining company that has a mining lease means that they now have the right to extract the gold they have previously prospected.

The mining lease will also outline:

  • amount of rent or lease to be paid, along with other fees
  • specific area where the mining operations can be conducted
  • period of the lease based on the number of years allowed by the provincial mining law

A mining lease can also be renewed before its expiry, or even transferred to another entity. These are subject to the processes with the provincial mining regulator.

Aside from getting a mining lease, other laws may also apply to the gold mining industry in Canada, especially during its operations. Some of these laws include labour and employment laws, which apply to a mining company’s workers.

Closure of gold mines

When a mining operation such as a gold mine is decommissioned, it must follow the process that the mining company prepared in its closure plan. This closure plan was earlier submitted by the mining company when it first applied for its operation’s approval. In most cases, this is submitted to comply with environmental and impact assessment laws. A security may also be required by law along with its submission.

A closure plan will detail how the land will be restored and rehabilitated after the mining operations have ceased.

Balancing profit with responsibility in the gold mining industry

The gold mining industry makes a huge contribution to Canada’s economy. To balance profit and sustainable practices, mining companies should follow the prescribed federal and provincial laws. While there’s no specific federal law on mining, Canada has robust environmental laws in place.

Gold mining companies must keep these laws (federal and provincial) and licensing requirements in mind as part of their operations. Consulting a mining lawyer is the best move to ensure full compliance with the law.

Learn more about the gold mining industry in Canada by consulting with the best mining lawyers in Canada as ranked by Lexpert.