Comments included a request for a broader discretion for the Director of Exploration to require a permit, an archaeological study or consider a dispute (public interest considerations); process time lines (too short / too long); length of time a plan or a permit is valid is too long / not long enough; thresholds and activities (too inclusive/not inclusive enough or too low / too high); the regulatory regime is overbuilt and not reflective of how the early exploration industry works; questions regarding who gets direct notification and who is responsible?; clarity and detail was requested on the dispute resolution process, provincial standards for early exploration and what procedural aspects of Aboriginal consultation the Crown may delegate.
All of the comments provided through the Environmental Registry were carefully considered by MNDM. Many had already been raised through the extensive consultation process launched in December 2009 and incorporated into the regulatory proposal. One of the key comments was the length of time the process might take with a post-decision dispute resolution mechanism. To streamline the process and maintain the amount of time for comments from Aboriginal communities, surface rights owners and the public, MNDM revised the dispute resolution process so that it occurs prior to making a decision on a permit application.
The regulations clarify that the early exploration proponent is responsible for notifying surface rights owners and that MNDM will notify potentially affected Aboriginal communities. The Regulation also gives express authority for MNDM to delegate certain procedural aspects of Aboriginal consultation to proponents.
In addition to the regulations, MNDM has developed an operational policy on Consultation and Arrangements at the Early Exploration Stage. This policy details respective roles and responsibilities of the Ministry, the early exploration proponent and Aboriginal communities around consultation on exploration plans and permits and provides further guidance to the exploration industry on consultation requirements.
Provincial Standards for Early Exploration have been developed regarding standard requirements for carrying out and rehabilitating early exploration actvities. These standards are incorporated by reference into the Exploration Plans and Exploration Permits Regulation but as they are free-standing the standards can evolve over time and will be reviewed and updated from time to time in consultation with stakeholders and the public. Future changes to the provincial standards will be posted on the Environmental Registry.