Environmental permitting in Ontario

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Similarly to Environmental Permitting at the Federal level in Canada, there are some permits that will be standard across all mining operations and others will be specific to certain types of projects. To determine what permits are required, the project should begin by contacting the regulating ministries in Ontario and acquire permitting information from them. This should be completed before any on-site work begins.

For additional information on environmental permitting in Canada on a Federal level, review the Environmental permitting wiki.

Environmental Assessment (EA)

Table 1: Environmental Assessment Permits Summary
Time: Review: 30 weeks (max)

EA completion: approximately 2 years (includes study period and report composition)

Cost: 0.2 – 0.5 % of project capital costs
Study Requirements: Detailed studies of the environment completed by competent specialists
Additional Resources: Environmental Assessment: Mining Projects


General Information

In Ontario, mining projects are not automatically required to submit an Environmental Assessment (EA) under the Environmental Assessment Act (EA Act). The Ontario governments sites that “EAs are prepared for large-scale, complex projects with the potential for significant environmental effects”, which most would agree could be used to describe any mining project. [1] However, the EA Act only applies to provincial ministries and agencies, municipalities and public bodies, not the private sector under which the mining industry falls. [1]

Although the mining industry is technically exempt from the EA requirements, all projects will complete one either due to a designating regulation or through voluntary agreement. Under a designating regulation, the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOE) makes a recommendation to Cabinet that a project be subject to the requirements of the EA Act due to the impact they will have on the environment. If approved, the proponent must submit a Terms of Reference and an EA. [2] The terms of reference are the outline of the work and studies that will be conducted during the EA. Voluntary agreement occurs when the proponent chooses to voluntarily comply with the EA Act requirements and goes through the Individual EA process. [2] Whether an EA is completed through a designating regulation or through voluntary agreement, terms of reference need to be provided and approved. Most mining projects will voluntarily submit themselves to the EA Act due to the nature of the project, the potential for significant environmental effects and the level of public interest most projects generate. [2]

There are two types of EAs under the EA Act, individual and streamlined. Individual EAs apply to “large-scale, complex projects with the potential for significant environmental effects” and streamlined EAs apply to “routine projects [with] predictable and manageable environmental effects”. [1] The Individual EAs require approval from the MOE, while the Streamlined EAs do not require direct approval for each project. [1]

Outlining the terms of reference usually takes 6-9 months to prepare and the review and decision period lasts 12 weeks. The first 30 days of the review period are open to any interested persons to provide comments on the components of the terms of reference, at the end of which a ministry decision is required. [3] The review and approval of a completed EA typically takes 30 weeks. [4] The EA study components can take from 6 months to 2 years to complete, depending on the scale of the project and the environment in which it is situated. [5]

While difficult to estimate, the average cost for EAs is 0.2% to 0.5% of the projects capital costs. [6]

Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA)

Table 2: Environmental Compliance Approval Summary
Time: Not specified
Cost: $50 - $200

If the ECA application is referred to a tribunal hearing the business must pay $18 000 for the hearing

Study Requirements: The application must be posted on the Environmental Registry for 30 – 45 days for public comment.
Additional Resources: Environmental Compliance Approval (ministry website)


Guide to Applying for an Environmental Compliance Approval (ministry document)


General Information

This approval is required by law under the Ontario Water Resources Act and the Environmental Protection Act.

This is an approval required by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change for all businesses that releases pollutants into the air, land or water or if the business stores, transports or disposes of waste. [1] While there are three types of environmental approvals, based on the nature of mining activities, the Environmental compliance approval is the one that needs to be obtained.

If the work proposed in the application is extensive, the ministry may require that financial assurance be provided to assure that funds will be available for future environmental costs. Prior to beginning work on the application, the business should contact the ministry to verify the necessity of submitting a financial assurance.

The media covered by the permit are air, noise/vibration, odour, waste disposal sites or waste management systems and sewage. [7]

Supporting documents and technical requirements: [7]

  • Air - Emission summary and dispersion modeling (ESDM) report
  • Noise/vibration – acoustic assessment report and vibration assessment report
  • Sewage – stormwater management plan, environmental impact analysis, surface water impact analysis, sewage quantity & quality analysis, engineering drawings and specifications
  • Waste disposal sites – design and operations report, stormwater management report, waste analysis plan, odour impact assessment and management and control plan

Permit application requirements: [7]

  • Detailed and summary project and process description
  • Information around property ownership, land use and zoning
  • Site plan
  • Financial assurance calculation and rationale
  • Signatures certifying the completeness and accuracy of the information in the application

Permit to Take Water (PTTW)

Table 3: Permit to Take Water Summary
Time: Case-by-case
Cost: Category 1 permit: $750

Category 2 permit: $750

Category 3 permit: $3000

Study Requirements: All permit categories require a map of the water taking location.

Category 2 and Category 3 require additional detailed studies.

Additional Resources: Water Taking and Transfer User Guide


General Information

The requirement for a PTTW is when a project intends to take more than 50 000 L of water a day from the environment, including lakes, streams, rivers, ponds and groundwater. [8]

The PTTW program is to ensure that Ontario waters are protected and wisely used. Permits are used to ensure that the water removed from an area is not more than the area can support without negatively impacting existing users or the environment.

There are three types of permits, classified by the proposal’s potential risk to the environment. Category 1 is considered low risk and permit renewals with no complaints, category 2 is a medium risk impact and category 3 is a high risk application. [8] Category 2 and 3 permit applicants are required to submit technical studies completed by a qualified person.

The ministry may post the application to the Environmental Registry for a 30-day public comment period to aid their decision making. [8]

Endangered Species Act Permit

Table 4: Endangered Species Act Permit Summary
Time: Notification of application requirements being met: 60 days

Permit decision: 3 months (from notification)

Cost: Not specified.

Includes any required studies (including expert consultation).

Study Requirements: The benefits of the project to the province must be demonstrated.

Reasonable alternatives must be shown to have been considered.

Additional Resources: List of species at risk by area:


General Information

There are currently 223 species at risk in Ontario. [9] The Endangered Species Act classifies and assesses species based on scientific knowledge and Aboriginal Traditional knowledge, and provides automatic legal protection and habitat protection to species classified as threatened or endangered. [9]

While the act acts to protect endangered and threated species, the permits allow approved activities to occur to ensure that Ontario businesses and residents continue to flourish.

There are 5 types of permits issued under the Endangered Species Act as outlined below by the Government of Ontario: [9]

  • Health or safety – a situation that requires activity to prevent harm to human health or safety but would negatively impact a threatened or endangered species
  • Protection or recovery – an activity whose action will have a negative effect on the species or its habitat, but whose overall activity is to help the species
  • Social or economic benefit to Ontario – an activity that will negatively impact the species, but whose actions will provide significant social or economic benefit to Ontario
  • Aboriginal – a permit issued to an Aboriginal band, tribal council or organization, whose activities do not jeopardize the recovery or survival of the species
  • Overall benefit – an activity with negative impacts on a species or its habitat, but the previous permit scenarios do no apply

Depending on the scale of the project, it is possible the proposed mining project will be approved for the Social or Economic Benefit to Ontario permit. This permit requires that the following conditions be met prior to permit approval: [10]

  • The activity has significant social or economic benefit to Ontario;
  • An expert on the possible effects of the activity on the species has been consulted and submitted a report with their professional opinion on whether the activity will jeopardize the survival or recovery of the species in Ontario;
  • Reasonable alternatives have been considered (including alternatives that would not negatively impact the species); and
  • The conditions of the permit will minimize the impact of the activity on the species.

Due to the possibility of additional research and review by an expert consultant, obtaining a permit can take upwards of 5 months.

Closure Plan Approval

Table 5: Closure Plan Approval Summary
Time: Varies
Cost: Not specified.

Includes any required studies (including expert consultation).

Study Requirements: Must provide financial assurance
Additional Resources: Closure Plan Resources:


Mine Exploration and Development Section contact info: http://www.infogo.gov.on.ca/infogo/home.html#orgProfile/5997/en

General Information

Ontario requires that a project receive a Closure Plan approval prior to beginning any mine development or operation activities. Mine closure occurs after mining and processing and includes decommissioning, dismantling and removal of plant equipment, and rehabilitation of the land disturbed by mining activities. [11] The objectives of the Closure Plan are to ensure public safety, chemical and physical stabilization of all components of the property, and a productive use of the land. [12]

Closure plans are detailed documents taking months to prepare and averaging approximately $200,000 dollars to prepare. As outlined in Mining Act, closure plans must include: [12]

  • Current project site conditions
  • Current land use of the site and adjacent properties
  • A project description
  • Progressive rehabilitation measures
  • Rehabilitation measures during a temporary suspension of activities (planned or unplanned)
  • Rehabilitation measures during a state of inactivity (indefinite project suspension)
  • Rehabilitation measures as a result of project closure
  • Monitoring program and procedures
  • Expected site conditions after closure
  • Cost details of expected implementation
  • Financial assurance
  • Consultation with Aboriginal peoples

The financial assurance portion of the Closure Plan is a financial guarantee provided by the company that is equal to the estimated cost of the rehabilitation work. [13] It ensures that at the end of the project life, whether the project ends as planned or due to financial or legal trouble, the funds required to rehabilitate the site are available. The financial assurance is returned to the company after the reclamation work has been completed and the ministry signs off on the work.

The complexity of the project will influence the time it takes to obtain ministry approval as well as the time required to complete the Closure Plan proposal.

Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act (LRIA) Approvals

Approvals under the LRIA are required form the MNR for the construction or modification of dams; water crossings, river channels, enclosures, buried pipelines and municipal and other drains. [14]

The permit application must include basic stream information, ownership of work site, purpose of work, description of work, and project specific information. [14]

Scoping meetings to address details of the planned work will be scheduled within 60-days of permit application.

Primary Permit/Approval Issuing Agencies in Ontario

The following is a list of agencies that a project should consider contacting before any on-site work begins to determine what permits are necessary.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Government of Ontario. (2017, January 5). Environmental Approvals. Retrieved from Government of Ontario: https://www.ontario.ca/page/environmental-approvals
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Government of Ontario. (2016, September 9). Environmental Assessment: Designating Regulations and Voluntary Agreements. Retrieved from Government of Ontario: https://www.ontario.ca/page/environmental-assessment-designating-regulations-and-voluntary-agreements
  3. Government of Ontario. (2016, June 24) Preparing and Reviewing Terms of Reference for Environmental Assessments in Ontario. Retrieved from Governmnet of Ontario: https://www.ontario.ca/page/preparing-and-reviewing-terms-reference-environmental-assessments-ontario#section-5
  4. Ministry of the Environment. (2014). Consultation in Ontario's Environmental Assessment Process. Toronto: Queen's Printer.
  5. SENES Consultants Limited. (2008). A Practitioners Guide to Planning for and Permitting a Mineral Development Project in Ontario. Ottawa: Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.
  6. European Commission. (2015, August 14). Environmental Assessment. Retrieved from European Commission: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/archives/eia/eia-studies-and-reports/eia-costs-benefit-en.htm
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Ministry of the Environment. (2012). Guide to Applying for an Environmental Compliance Approval. Ottawa: Government of Ontario.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Government of Ontario. (2017, January 18). Permits to Take Water. Retrieved from Government of Ontario: https://www.ontario.ca/page/permits-take-water
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Government of Ontario. (2015, October 2). How to Get An Endangered Species Act Permit or Authorization. Retrieved from Government of Ontario: https://www.ontario.ca/page/how-get-endangered-species-act-permit-or-authorization
  10. Government of Ontario. (2008, June 30). Endangered Species Act. Retrieved from Ontario Laws: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/07e06#BK21
  11. Spitz, K., & Trudinger, J. (2009). Mine Closure. In Mining and the Environment: from Ore to Metal (pp. 810-819). Boca Raton: CRC Press.
  12. 12.0 12.1 The Canary Reasearch Institute for Mining, Environment and Health. (n.d.). Ontario Mining Fact Sheet. Ottawa: The Canary Reasearch Institute for Mining, Environment and Health.
  13. Ministry of Northern Development and MInes. (2015, June 15). Financial Assurance. Retrieved from Exploration and Developing Minerals in Ontario: http://www.mndm.gov.on.ca/en/mines-and-minerals/mining-sequence/development/mine-development/financial-assurance
  14. 14.0 14.1 Ministry of Natural Resources. (2011). Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act Technical Guidelines. Ottawa: Government of Ontario.