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Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

Fact Sheet

Supreme Court Decision on Red Chris Mine Project - Impact on Federal Environmental Assessments

This fact sheet outlines the measures the Government of Canada is putting in place to comply with the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada in the matter of MiningWatch Canada v. Canada (Fisheries and Oceans).

What was the decision?

On January 21, 2010, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its decision concerning the Red Chris project. The Court concluded that whether a project undergoes a comprehensive study or a screening is determined in relation to the project as proposed by the proponent. The court also concluded that the scope of a project for the purposes of the assessment, is at a minimum, the project as proposed by the proponent.

The Supreme Court also concluded that whenever any component of a project, as described by the proponent includes an element described in the Comprehensive Study List Regulations, a comprehensive study is required.

In addition, the Court underscored the value of cooperative assessment provisions set out in the Canadian Environment Assessment Act to minimize duplication with provincial processes.

This decision provides clarity to responsible federal authorities and will contribute to a more timely overall environmental assessment and regulatory process.

For the Red Chris project itself, the Court granted MiningWatch’s appeal, but determined that the environmental assessment is complete and a comprehensive study on this project is not required.

What does this mean for future projects requiring a federal environmental assessment?

The proponent’s development proposal will determine the type of environmental assessment to be conducted under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (the Act). If any component of the proposal is listed on the Comprehensive Study List Regulations, a comprehensive study will be required.

Given that the Court has established that the project as proposed by the proponent must be assessed, the scope of future projects is expected to be confirmed promptly and efficiently.

The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency, with input from other federal departments, has developed operational guidance to assist federal authorities with determining the scope of a project, determining the type of environmental assessment required and federal-provincial cooperation. This guidance will encourage a consistent approach to applying the Supreme Court’s decision.

The initial guidance also outlines the mechanisms currently available under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act to achieve federal-provincial cooperation.

What does this mean for projects currently undergoing federal assessments?

Ongoing environmental assessments are being examined to ensure that the scope of the project complies with the Supreme Court ruling. In situations where the scope of the project to be assessed already matches that of the proponent, the environmental assessment will proceed unchanged.

In situations where the current scope of the project is not consistent with the proponent’s development proposal, the responsible authorities will revise the scope. Should the scope of the project change, some projects may now require a comprehensive study, instead of a screening.

When will decisions be made on whether the environmental assessment type or scope of assessment will change for a specific project?

Decisions on which projects will need a different type of assessment or a change to the scope of the project will be communicated as soon as they have been made. Responsible authorities will be implementing this approach and decisions regarding individual projects will be communicated as soon as possible.