Mining experts see drawbacks in Canada's COVID-19 permitting adjustments – S&P Global Market Intelligence

Richard J. King, Martin Ignasiak

Apr 30, 2020

A recent article in S&P Global Market Intelligence discusses the processes that have been adopted by a “patchwork” of Canadian mining and exploration regulators in response to COVID-19-related permitting challenges. According to author Kip Keen, some of the “currently open-ended processes have raised some concerns about cases where face-to-face meetings and fieldwork could prove more effective.”

Martin Ignasiak, an Alberta-based lawyer and national Co-Chair of Osler’s Regulatory, Environmental, Aboriginal and Land (REAL) Group, tells S&P Global Market Intelligence that the shift away from in-person interrogation comes with drawbacks. "Generally, a regulatory lawyer or a litigator would say the same thing. There's no substitute for a true cross-examination if you're trying to assess someone's credibility," says Martin.

Martin explains that during the permitting process it is easier to assess an expert's credibility if you can ask them questions in real time. Shifting to a more written-dependent process, which has become more commonplace in Canada, makes that harder.

Richard King, national Co-Chair of Osler’s REAL Group, who is based in Toronto, adds that increased reliance on written responses poses an issue for timelines. Oral proceedings with more confined schedules allow for quicker information gathering, whereas written processes tend to be more stretched out.

Richard states that some of the deeper impacts to the environmental review process will be felt during the consultation process, where it can be more difficult to conduct meetings with social distancing measures and concerns over community spread. "Aboriginal consultation that requires face-to-face meetings may be off the table," says Richard.

Richard adds that permitting-related work in Canada's more remote areas, often in the North, may prove more challenging. He states that his clients would usually pursue some project-related work during the already short Arctic summer, beginning after ice and snow melt around June.

"And the question now is, is June going to be June? Or is June going to be August and you have a limited window up there?" he says, stating that, in one downside scenario, a season could be lost, delaying some activity to 2021.

For more of Martin and Richard’s insights, read Kip Keen’s full article, “Mining experts see drawbacks in Canada's COVID-19 permitting adjustments” in S&P Global Market Intelligence.