The following came to me via e-mail. Issued by David Bleiker, AMEC Earth & Environmental (no indication if he wrote it.)

Over the years there have been many positive changes on the environmental side of the mining business, such as the innovative use of new technologies, more effective planning for mine closure, and the increased participation of the general public and First Nations in mine planning," said Dave Simms, a Principal with AMEC, specializing in environmental assessment and resource development. The following are some of the more significant changes:

Environmental permits - On a positive note, there are increased expectations for consultation by stakeholders in the permitting process. Increased consultation generally leads to a better product, but the introduced complexities are more time consuming, and require improved coordination among the federal and provincial governments, Simms said. The challenge for government is in streamlining the process to create greater efficiency and to help steer proponents through the system.

Technology breakthroughs - Major steps forward have been taken over the years involving such aspects as improvements in the treatment of cyanide from gold mining operations and the management of acid mine drainage. With improving technologies, we are seeing better and more predictable environmental results, said Simms. The technology for environmental monitoring is also improving such as the use of satellite-linked systems for providing habitat mapping and water surveys. Another example, he said is AMEC's use of radio telemetry to do caribou monitoring for one of its major mine clients.

Mine closures - Approaches to mine closures are better understood based on experienced gained over the years. Now, in the planning stages, problems and concerns are anticipated and mine owners are building for the future and thinking ahead to when the mine will be closed. Also, closure planning is integrated into the various life cycle stages of the mine development, facilitating progressively close out. These improvements are cost effective and help to avoid potential long-term problems, he said.

First Nations - The expectations from First Nations' people and how their land is used is evolving. First Nations want a greater say in how projects are developed and how developments will benefit their people. The development of Impact Benefit Agreements and Participation Agreements is now standard practice. So there is more effort going into establishing relationships and joint objectives among the parties. Impact Benefit Agreements typically cover such aspects as environmental, employment, training, and business opportunities, and other issues. Our consultants are there to ensure that the environmental commitments made through these agreements are workable and transparent.