It’s been 135 years since Ontario wrote its Mining Act, and a bill to update it was introduced on April 30, 2009, in the provincial parliament. The bill includes several notable changes that were the subject of public consultations last fall. The government took its lumps for holding consultations at a time of year many of the interested parties were in the bush working and unable to attend the hearings.
Nonetheless, the changes are seen as steps in the right direction. The bill addresses concerns of four key stakeholder groups: Aboriginals, private landowners, miners and environmentalists. These groups have diverse interests, and the new Mining Act touches on most of them.
The new Mining Act includes provisions for consultation with and accommodation of Aboriginal communities. They will be allowed to withdraw cultural sites from staking. A dispute resolution mechanism will be created, and revenue from natural resource development will be shared with Aboriginal communities. However, it does not give First Nations an absolute right to veto exploration activity on most of their lands, which has some of them irate.
Private landowners, i.e. cottagers who hold only surface rights, will receive better notification of exploration activities to take place on their land. Provisions to remediate areas disturbed by exploration will benefit them as well.
Environmentalists lauded Premier McGuinty’s plan to withdraw at least 225,000 km2 of the boreal forest in northern Ontario when he announced it in July 2008. That coupled with requirements to clean up exploration sites and practice sustainable mining have this interest group backing the new law.
The exploration industry will only have to file plans for low-impact work, but permits will be required for higher impact activities. Map staking will also be phased in, beginning in southern Ontario.
Not every organization has been heard from, but the Ontario Mining Association and the Canadian Association of Mining Equipment and Services for Export (CAMESE) have voiced their support. They point to the clarity, stability and certainty the new law offers the mining industry.
I support the new Mining Act because it is far more reflective of modern sensibilities. Parts of it may be awkward in practice, but I believe it will be a net gain for the Ontario mineral industry and all citizens of the province.
Naturally, we would like CMJ readers to weigh in with their opinions in today’s Hot Topic at www.CanadianMiningJournal.com. Reader comments are welcome.