Re continued responsible mining and exploration activity for the Peel Watershed:
As a university-schooled environmentalist and geologist, I understand that a lack of environmental policy on behalf of mining companies can cause catastrophe.
However, in the past 15 years that I have been actively involved in exploration and mining, I have witnessed a Canada-wide change in the attitudes of the mining industry to the environment.
Strict legal and ethical requirements now regulate the industry and focus on preserving the natural environment and all that depend on it.
Past environmental mistakes in Canada have given rise to numerous federal and provincial or territorial acts that now protect the environment like never before.
The laws aim to prevent or limit environmental pollution and degradation by establishing enforceable policies for potentially harmful mining activities and regulating any emissions that do occur.
The requirement to undertake federal and territorial environmental assessments prior to commencing mineral projects, environmental and socio-economic impact studies in the pre-mining stage, and ongoing environmental monitoring throughout the life of the project, ensure the protection of the environment, local communities and people.
Contingency plans are also legislated, including outlining cleanup procedures for accidents that may occur, and reserving capital for rehabilitation of minesites.
Infractions are subject to criminal law, and can easily suspend exploration and mining activities indefinitely.
The last decade has seen an increasing establishment of professional geoscientist acts, which often accompany professional engineering acts.
These acts clearly put public and environmental welfare as the top priority of any professional engineer or geoscientist, in part by requiring the professional to be well-versed and compliant with all federal and provincial environmental regulations.
In addition, professionals are required to develop and maintain an environmental-monitoring system throughout the life of the project.
If any issues arise, the professional must take immediate action, or is subject to disciplinary action from the respective association, and both the professional and the employer are subject to criminal proceedings.
It is for these reasons that mining corporations voluntarily perform in-house environmental (or corporate) audits and/or register under international environmental management system standards, such as ISO 14001.
The environment has paid the price for the poor industry practice of the past. These days are now gone as stringent environmental and now ethical laws regulate the companies and professionals undertaking these activities.
With the professional now required to be aware of, and to limit, wasteful activities and over-consumption, the environmental and sustainability concerns of the Peel Watershed, and indeed all watersheds, have already been addressed without the need for further restrictions on exploration and mining.
Jesse Robert Halle, Halle Geological Services