The main steps of an environmental assessment process conducted by the Agency are as follows: SMRA will be eligible for the Participant Funding Program and applications for this funding will not be available until step 7 has been completed. There are two more remaining opportunities to comment in the Environmental Impact of the Project.
- Project description submitted – Where a physical activity is described in the Regulations Designating Physical Activities and the Agency is the Responsible Authority, the proponent must provide the Agency with a description of the designated project that includes the information set out in the Prescribed Information for the Description of a Designated Project Regulations.
- Project description accepted – The Agency accepts the project description once it is considered to be complete.
- Notification of consideration of whether an environmental assessment is required and comment period on the designated project and its potential effects on the environment – Once the project description is accepted, the Agency will post a notice on its Registry Internet site that it is considering whether an environmental assessment will be required within 45 days of posting the notice of consideration on its Registry Internet site. The Agency must consider the following in making a decision:
- the description of the designated project provided by the proponent,
- the possibility that carrying out the designated project may cause adverse environmental effects,
- any comments received from the public within 20 days after posting the project description summary on the Registry Internet site, and
- the results of any relevant regional studies.
- Comment period on draft environmental impact statement guidelines – The proponent is required to prepare an environmental impact statement that identifies and assesses the environmental effects of the project and the measures proposed to mitigate those effects, according to the environmental impact statement guidelines prepared by the Agency. The Agency prepares and posts a draft of the environmental impact statement guidelines on its Registry Internet site for public comments on the proposed studies, methods and information required in the environmental impact statement (second comment period).
- Final environmental impact statement guidelines issued – The Agency considers public comments, including comments from Indigenous communities, as well as input from federal departments, and then issues the final environmental impact statement guidelines to the proponent.
- Participant funding application period and decision on funding requests – Eligible individuals, incorporated not-for-profit organizations and Indigenous communities may apply to the Participant Funding Program. The President of the Agency makes the final decision on each funding request.
- Proponent completes environmental studies and submits environmental impact statement to the Agency – The proponent prepares its environmental impact statement according to the guidelines provided by the Agency and submits it to the Agency for review.⇐
- Agency conducts completeness review of the environmental impact statement – The Agency reviews the proponent’s environmental impact statement to verify that it clearly provides the information required by the environmental impact statement guidelines. If necessary, the Agency may require the proponent to provide additional information prior to starting the sufficiency review.
- Agency conducts sufficiency review of the environmental impact statement – The Agency reviews the proponent’s environmental impact statement for sufficiency and accuracy. The Agency may require the proponent to provide clarification or further information to understand the potential environmental effects and the proposed mitigation measures.
- Comment period related to environmental impact statement – A summary of the environmental impact statement and the environmental impact statement report (in the language in which it was produced) are posted on the Registry Internet site. The Agency solicits comments from the public on the potential environmental effects of the project and the proposed measures to prevent or mitigate those effects (third comment period).
- Proponent revises environmental impact statement information and submits any further information requested by the Agency – The Agency reviews the additional information submitted by the proponent for sufficiency and accuracy. If any information gaps remain or clarifications are needed, the proponent provides additional information to the Agency.
- Agency prepares draft environmental assessment report – The Agency drafts the environmental assessment report that includes the Agency’s conclusions regarding the potential environmental effects of the project, the mitigation measures that were taken into account and the significance of the remaining adverse environmental effects as well as follow-up program requirements.
- Comment period on draft environmental assessment report – The Agency solicits comments on the draft environmental assessment report (fourth comment period).
- Agency finalizes the environmental assessment report and submits it to the Minister of the Environment – The Agency finalizes the environmental assessment report and submits it to the Minister of the Environment to inform his or her environmental assessment decision.
- Determination of whether significant adverse environmental effects are justified – If the Minister’s decision is that the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, the matter is referred to the Governor in Council (Cabinet) who will then decide if the likely significant adverse environmental effects are justified in the circumstances.
- Minister issues the environmental assessment decision statement with enforceable conditions – The environmental assessment decision statement includes the determination of whether the project is likely to cause significant environmental effects. If the Minister’s decision is that the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects or if the project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects that have been determined by the Governor in Council to be justified in the circumstances, the conditions with respect to mitigation measures and a follow-up program that the proponent must comply with for the proposed project to be carried out, are set out in the environmental assessment decision statement issued by the Minister.
- Regulatory decision making – If required, federal decisions, such as whether to issue regulatory permits or licenses or to provide funding, that would permit the project to proceed can only be made by federal departments and agencies after the environmental assessment is complete. Federal authorities responsible for such decisions may exercise any power or perform any duty or function in relation to the designated project if an environmental assessment decision statement has been issued stating that:
- with the implementation of the conditions set out in the decision statement, the project is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects, or
- the significant adverse environmental effects that the project is likely to cause after the implementation of the conditions are justified in the circumstances.
- Implement mitigation measures and follow-up program – Mitigation measures identified in the environmental assessment decision statement are incorporated into the design plans and implemented with the project. A follow-up program is also implemented to verify that the environmental assessment was accurate and the mitigation measures were effective.
To summarize: these are the key milestones for public participation:
Cochrane Hill Gold Project: current status – the EIS Guidelines were provided to the proponent on January 4, 2019. The proponent is planning to submit its EIS to the Agency in August/September 2019. The Agency will perform a 30-day conformity review and will then invite public comments on the EIS (third public comment period).
In terms of our timeline, an environmental assessment conducted by the Agency must be completed within 365 days. This timeline starts when a notice of the commencement of the environmental assessment is posted on the Registry Internet site and ends when the Minister of the Environment makes a decision as to whether the designated project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.