Ontario, like most other mining regions across Canada and around the world for that matter, has experienced some extremely challenging times in recent months but unlike many other parts of the world, Ontario’s mining challenges have gone beyond a declining demand for its minerals and has moved into equally troubling areas involving financing for exploration, labour and new provincial legislation governing its mining industry.
The Mining Amendment Act, in particular, has been the focus of much attention and although it has been passed, work continues in the development of regulations to bring the legislation to life. The Ontario Mining Association believes both the Mining Amendment Act and the Far North Act need some additional work, if they are to achieve the governments intended goals.
The OMA submitted a full version of its review of Bill 173, Mining Amendment Act, and Bill 191, Far North Act, to the Legislatures Standing Committee on General Government. Also, earlier OMA President Chris Hodgson presented highlights of the OMAs views to this committee at hearings in Thunder Bay.
“Recent turbulence in the economy has had a negative impact on our industry, but there are steps that the government can take to ensure Ontario remains in an optimal position to take advantage of the next boom in commodity prices,” said the OMA submission. “Bill 173 and Bill 191 are a start in that direction, but only if this committee ensures that the amendments recommended are in fact implemented in a manner that will foster the growth of mining in the province.
“The sustained success of mining as an economic engine of Ontarios economy requires the following: Certainty of the rule of law and land title; Land access for mineral exploration; Investment in infrastructure, technology and training; Regulatory certainty and efficiency, and; Certainty of Aboriginal rights and engagement. The OMA believes that in developing the proposed legislation, there is an unprecedented opportunity to foster a mining environment that promotes fair and balanced development that will benefit all Ontarians and ensure all of us a healthy and prosperous future.”
On Bill 173, OMA concerns centred on map staking, Aboriginal relations and the duty to consult, the purpose clause of the proposed legislation, dispute resolutions, rights of appeal and penalties and protecting the opening of new mines. “We suggest that without significant resources from the government both in terms of money and expertise to support capacity building for the communities to develop land use plans, it is unrealistic for the government to expect any mining development to proceed in the Far North for a decade or more.”
On Bill 191, OMA’s concerns involved clarifying ambiguity and imbalance, building First Nations capacity, exploration within protected areas and a review process for land use plans. “Bill 191 presents many challenges for our members, which if not rectified, will cause unprecedented delay, unnecessary conflicts and diminishing economic benefits for the province and communities in the Far North.”
The government and Ontario Mines Minister Michael Gravelle have done a good job keeping the Mining Act amendments within their original scope and they have invested a great deal of effort to get the legislation right. The OMA continues to work with its members and the government to refine the goals of these pieces of legislation and the regulations, which support them.
Since it is logistically impossible to take Queen’s Park to the mines for a first-hand look at what the working environment is like at some of Ontario’s mines, once a year the Ontario Mining Association brings the mines to the home of the provincial government.
Last year, “Meet the Miners Day at Queen’s Park” was held on March 25. It’s a one-day event at Queens Park involving member companies and their employees with the purpose being to help shine the spotlight on the industry in provincial governmental circles.
At that event, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty joined representatives of all three political parties at Queens Park to show their support for the contributions of the mineral industry at the OMA’s “Meet the Miners” Day event in the Legislature. In speaking to the audience of approximately 200 people at a reception, Premier McGuinty thanked those in the mining industry for working hard to build the quality of life we enjoy in this province.
” In this age, we may be drowning in information but we are thirsting for wisdom,” said Premier McGuinty. “I want to thank miners for their work and for pulling together in tough times. Keep doing what you’re doing and we can meet our shared responsibility of building a better Ontario for our children.”
Chris Hodgson added, “While many things have changed in the world since last year, the contributions to the society and economy of Ontario of mining, especially given current global economic circumstances, are more important than ever to communities and the province. On behalf of our members, we want to be, and are a part of the solution to help draw Ontario out of this recession.”
Mining in Ontario is a $10.7 billion annual business.