Good morning, Madam Chair, members of the committee, and fellow witnesses.
It is an honour for me today to be here to present Teck's recommendations on Bill C-69.
My name is Sheila Risbud and I'm the Director of Government Affairs for Teck Resources. Previous to Teck, I worked for the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and for Environment and Climate Change Canada where I was directly involved in federal impact assessments. I am accompanied here today by my colleague Mark Freberg, who also has extensive environmental assessment experience in both Canada and Chile. We'd be happy to answer your questions after our presentation.
Proudly Canadian, Teck is a diversified natural resource company.
We are proud to employ over 8,000 people in Canada.
In Canada, we have six steelmaking coal operations, the country's largest open-pit copper mine, a zinc and lead smelting complex, and have interests in several mining development and oil sands projects. We also own or have interest in mines in Chile, Peru, and the United States. In all jurisdictions where we operate, we focus on building strong relationships with communities, indigenous people, and other stakeholders.
We have significant business arrangements in place with Chinese customers and investors, and from our headquarters in Vancouver, we compete with many of the world's largest mining companies. Many of our activities require environmental assessments, and as a project proponent in Canada, we believe that the design and implementation of this legislation is critical. It matters to ensuring the ongoing protection of the environment and it matters as well to the long-term competitiveness of our business and the jobs that depend on our success.
We support the government's effort to strengthen public confidence in the environmental assessment processes and to enhance indigenous people's participation and decision-making. For Teck, the intentions in the government's legislation align with core business values. In many instances, they describe our existing approach to managing our relationship with the environment and the community at large.
New rules that result in greater public confidence in environmental protections will help support and attract investment in this country. However, this represents one part of the challenge as we see it. Project proponents need to know that approval processes will not only be rigorous but can be counted on and result in clear, timely decisions. We're encouraged by many elements within Bill C-69, but we would like to see more emphasis on a predictable process that delivers regulatory certainty for all parties.
This is specially important now, at a time when Canada has seen its share of global mining investments decrease significantly in recent years.
Getting this right can help turn the situation around.
Teck supports the amendments that the Mining Association of Canada highlighted in its presentation to this committee on March 29. Today, we'd like to briefly highlight areas of the legislation that we believe could benefit from additional clarity. I'll focus my remarks on the proposed early planning phase, enhanced indigenous peoples' participation and decision-making, and competitiveness in cost-recovery restructures.
First, let me say that we support the inclusion of an early planning phase. This reflect's Teck's existing approach to engaging early with stakeholders and indigenous peoples, and we believe it should be considered a best practice internationally. However, we're concerned that as currently written, the proposed early planning phase does not identify clear milestones within the 180-day period.
Defining milestones with clear timelines for the various steps would provide certainty and transparency for all parties involved in the assessment. Proponents need to understand what is expected of them in order to adequately meet early planning requirements. Without this clarity, the early planning phase could continue indefinitely.
For example, we recommend that the agency be given set times to deliver the summary of issues document. This is the document that describes the issues that the agency has heard to date and the decision on whether an impact assessment is required. We also recommend that the early planning phase contain a mechanism to incorporate information already collected by a proponent or another jurisdiction prior to the 180-day period.
Incorporating existing information could significantly streamline the process and incent proponents to conduct even earlier positive engagement with potentially impacted communities and indigenous peoples.
I also recommend that sufficient resources be allocated to the new impact assessment agency to manage this early planning phase well, ensuring it has the capacity to meet its expanded consultation obligations as well as to review scientific data and indigenous knowledge.
So, to summarize, while Teck supports early planning, clear and predictable milestones and sufficient resources are required in order to successfully meat this phase's intent of greater transparency and predictability.
Another aspect of this bill that we support is the early and inclusive engagement and participation of indigenous peoples at every stage of the impact assessment process. Teck has very positive experiences from early engagement with indigenous peoples, and we have formalized early, inclusive dialogue into our corporate-wide indigenous peoples policy. We believe this approach contributes to reconciliation while supporting the shared benefits of resource development.
However, this legislation needs to result in clear, consistent practices that governments, indigenous peoples, and proponents can rely on. We hope you will agree that for too long, there has been a positive discussion about the need to do better, but perhaps too little by way of clearly defining how we can make this work.
Teck supports the government's commitment to the adoption and implementation of the UN Declaration on Indigenous Peoples. Currently, however, it is not clear how Bill C-69 will be coordinated with the government's plans to implement the UN declaration, particularly with regard to free, prior, and informed consent. We recommend that the government engage with industry, provinces, territories, and indigenous governments to develop a process for the implementation of the UN declaration, with a focus on achieving complete clarity around what is expected when it comes to the terms “free, prior, and informed consent”.
Teck is also pleased to see crown consultation begin earlier in the impact assessment process. For this process to be successful, however, we recommend that there be clarity on the scope of consultation and the division or coordination of consultation efforts between the crown and the proponent.
Once again, we support the government's intent to meaningfully involve indigenous peoples in impact assessment but seek clarity on how this will be carried out.
We recommend that clear criteria be established that outline when and how the minister will delegate impact assessment responsibilities.
The last aspect of Bill C-69 we would like to comment on is the structure of cost recovery under proposed sections 76 through 80 of the legislation. We recognize that reasonable cost recovery is a standard practice in regulatory and permitting processes, and we have experience with cost recovery regimes. We believe that federal cost calculations must consider integration with provincial fees related to the same project. This would be consistent with the federal government's commitment to coordination with provinces to support the one project, one assessment principle.
We also believe that federal cost recovery should consider any other fees for mining projects under other federal legislation such as the Fisheries Act. Doing so would remove costly duplication and support greater cost competitiveness in Canada. One place to coordinate this would be in the proposed impact assessment coordination plan.
We therefore recommend that the agency should be mandated to coordinate cost recovery with other jurisdictions and other federal departments when costs are included under other legislation.
In conclusion, we want to reiterate Teck's overall support for this government's intent to improve environmental and regulatory processes.
We support the government's efforts in this regard. We are pleased to see that some of our recommendations are being considered in this bill.
We appreciate this opportunity to appear before you today and to highlight further recommendations that we believe provide clarity in Bill C-69. We want to see Canada succeed, becoming a greater destination for global mining investment and a leader in responsible project development, while protecting the environment, advancing reconciliation with indigenous peoples, and creating economic opportunities for all Canadians.
Thank you. I will be pleased to answer your questions.