Transparency International Canada uncovers transparency and accountability gaps in environmental assessment processes

Canada mining

5 November 2020

Canada is a global mining powerhouse. It is both a home and host country for the mining industry, and it is a hub for mining finance. As such, Canada can lead in the implementation of processes that are transparent, and that allow for full accountability.

Transparency International Canada is part of Transparency International’s global network championing accountability in the mining sector.

In its latest report, TI Canada has analysed the environmental assessment (EA) processes in Ontario, British Colombia and the Yukon Territory. If the EA is not conducted transparently and accountably, the true impacts of a mining project can remain hidden, and the public may not fully understand the trade-offs. This report has uncovered 38 corruption risks that may undermine the EA process.

Two risks found in all three studied jurisdictions relate to consultations with affected communities and how the dual roles of government departments in both promoting and regulating mining can lead to conflicts of interest.

Each jurisdiction also has its own specific risks:


Ontario is the only Canadian jurisdiction where an EA is not mandatory for private sector projects, with a few exemptions. Often, a mining project is only subject to class EAs, which are limited in scope and largely preapproved. Proponents can make voluntary agreements to conduct an individual EA, which evaluates a project as a whole, but this does not happen frequently. Up until 2018, only eight out of 32 mining operations had undergone a provincial environmental assessment.

British Columbia

It is the responsibility of the proponent to complete a self-assessment and determine if the project meets EA thresholds. Interviewees raised concerns about the practice of project-splitting and staggering expansions over time to avoid EAs.

Yukon Territory

Yukon authorities produce a decision document that determines whether a proposed project should be carried out. The creation of this document was viewed as a “black box” by research interviewees and potentially subject to external or political influences. Multiple interviewees observed that the public is not provided with opportunities to comment on this decision document. Stakeholders said that it is often difficult to follow how final decisions are determined.


Mitigating these risks would strengthen the Canadian mining industry and its relationship with communities. As James Cohen, TI Canada’s Executive Director, points out:

“A transparent and accountable EA process is essential for meaningful engagement and a responsible mining industry.”

To achieve this, TI Canada recommends:

  • All three jurisdictions transfer responsibility for mining promotion to government agencies working with economic development to ensure the unbiased assessment of projects.
  • All three jurisdictions create guidelines to publicly disclose the rationale for EA-related decisions with substantive justifications.
  • All three jurisdictions develop criteria to assess public consultations and create procedural guidance for meaningful consultations in the EA process.
  • Ontario and Yukon adopt the concept of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for EA consultations with Indigenous communities.
  • All jurisdictions develop guidelines on how to integrate FPIC in EA consultations.
  • British Columbia close project-splitting loopholes.
  • Ontario require EAs for private enterprises and determine clear thresholds for individual assessments.
  • The Yukon Territory strengthen disclosures of the EA decision-making process.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash