AER Taking ‘Phased Approach’ On Mineral Regulatory Development

The Alberta Energy Regulator (AER) is taking a “phased approach” with regard to its expanding mandate to regulate mineral development, starting first with the development of regulations and rules for brine-hosted minerals, then turning later to the hard rock minerals sector, a Canadian Society for Unconventional Resources (CSUR) Alberta Day event heard on Tuesday.

As part of this webinar event, Sandra Blais, a senior advisor, regulatory with the AER delivered an update on the province’s minerals strategy and the above-mentioned phased approach to the development and implementation of minerals regulations.

The expanding mandate of the AER will include the regulation of minerals, including critical minerals and rare earth minerals. The Mineral Resource Development Act (MRDA) will establish the AER as the life cycle regulator for Alberta’s mineral resources.

“Worldwide demand for metals and critical minerals is increasing rapidly,” Blais told the CSUR update. “Alberta has favourable geology for many metallic and industrial minerals.

“The government of Alberta wants to capitalize on Alberta’s mineral potential to become a preferred international producer and supplier of minerals and mineral products. And Alberta has the necessary infrastructure in place to support a growing minerals sector.”

Blais added: “I want to mention that there is already mineral resource development occurring in Alberta and current regulatory oversight is spread across several regulatory agencies. The one gap in the existing framework is resource conservation and ensuring these minerals are not wasted.

“The AER has well-established processes for regulating energy resource development.”

As a future mineral life cycle regulator, the AER will be applying these processes and developing requirements that reflect the government’s direction that is set through policies, regulation and legislation.

“We’ll be looking at the existing regulatory process as we enhance the framework,” Blais said.

“As we work to build and implement a new regulatory framework for brine-hosted minerals, the AER’s mandate is expanding and involves new work,” she added. “It would be inappropriate to use oil and gas levy funds to support this effort, and the AER has received a government grant to support the work for the current fiscal year.”

The AER’s key deliverables will include: new regulations, as well as directives, and potentially manuals, “and we will need some way to accept applications and allow for manual reviews of mineral resource exploration and development applications.”

This is new work and will require training, development of its existing staff, as well as some recruiting to ensure the AER has appropriate skill sets and expertise, Blais said.

The AER is aiming to accept applications for brine-hosted minerals in early 2023 (more information on brine-hosted minerals is located below).

“We are undertaking a phased approach for minerals and we will continue to work with stakeholders as we develop the framework for mineable minerals,” Blais said.

“We have categorized … into two groups — brine-hosted and hard rock minerals,” she added.

“Brine-hosted mineral engagement and the development of requirements will occur first and the hard rock will come later.”

AER seeking feedback on requirements for brine-hosted mineral resource development and Directive 56

In December 2021, the Alberta government introduced Bill 82: Mineral Resource Development Act (MRDA).

Under that act, which has not yet been proclaimed, the AER will have the authority to regulate the safe, efficient, and responsible development of Alberta’s mineral resources.

The AER on Tuesday said it is now seeking feedback on its proposed new Draft Directive: Brine-Hosted Mineral Resource Development. The draft directive sets out the requirements that industry must follow for mineral resource development and covers the entire development life cycle, from initiation through to closure.

The draft directive introduces processes and requirements that are unique to brine-hosted minerals development while incorporating applicable oil and gas regulatory instruments.

Directive 056: Energy Development Applications and Schedules has been updated to include geothermal and brine-hosted mineral development. It now enables well, pipeline and facility licensing requirements for geothermal and brine-hosted minerals development.

Consequential amendments related to Directive 089: Geothermal Resource Development released in August 2022 have also been made, but input on Directive 056 during this public comment period should focus on the brine-hosted mineral content, said the AER.

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