MAC: Mines and Communities

Ontario mining proposals get mixed reception

Published by MAC on 2009-06-02

Ontario is Canada's leading mining jurisdiction. Reforming the Mining Act that governs access to publicly owned mineral resources and mine closure requirements has been on and off the political agenda for several years.

In 2007 and 2008 high profile conflicts throughout the province forced the provincial government to push ahead with changes to the act, much of which hasn't been updated in 100 years.

Two of the most high profile conflicts centred on mining companies' access to First Nations traditional territories. Exercising their right to Free Prior and Informed Consent sent 7 indigenous leaders to jail for 3 months; six of whom were from the remote fly-in community of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug in northwestern Ontario, along with Bob Lovelace, former chief of the Ardoch Algonquin, whose territory is just 100 km from the nations capital.

The exploration boom in 2007-2008 also resulted in a number of conflicts with private land owners who did not own the rights to the minerals underneath the surface.

Consultations on mining act reforms were held with various "stakeholders" and First Nation late last years, with draft legislation released on April 30, 2009. See:

The response by First Nations to the proposed reforms has ranged from considerable disappointment to a guarded welcome. Not surprisingly, the mining industry itself has voiced a number of concerns that access to land and minerals will be unduly restricted.

Ontario Government Announcement


McGuinty Government To Introduce Innovative, Balanced Legislation For A Sustainable Mining Future

Ontario Government Announcement

30 April 2009

Proposed changes to Ontario's Mining Act would see significant strides in Aboriginal consultation, provide clear rules for industry and reduce the impact of mineral exploration on the environment.

The proposed legislation, to be introduced later today, promotes balanced development that benefits all Ontarians. If passed, it would modernize the way companies stake and explore their claims to be more respectful of private land owners and Aboriginal communities. At the same time, it would support a vibrant minerals industry that would help many communities realize their economic and social aspirations.

The proposed legislation includes a number of ground-breaking provisions, which would make Ontario a national leader in mineral resource stewardship, including:

• Incorporating Aboriginal consultation in mining legislation and regulations
• Requiring awareness training to obtain a prospector's licence, and
• Introduction of a dispute-resolution process for Aboriginal-related issues in mining.

If the legislation is passed, Ontario will begin putting new rules in place later this year.


"This proposed legislation takes bold steps toward a modern, innovative Mining Act that would balance all of our respective interests, benefit Ontario communities and support a vibrant Ontario minerals industry."
Michael Gravelle, Northern Development and Mines Minister


• Mining is Canada's largest private sector employer of Aboriginal people.
• Mining provides Ontario with a trade surplus of about $3.3 billion annually.
• The 2009 Ontario Budget committed $40 million over three years for initiatives to support Mining Act modernization.


Modernizing Ontario's Mining Act

Proposed legislation to modernize Ontario's Mining Act builds on the commitment announced last July - as part of the Far North Planning initiative - to find new approaches to mineral exploration that would be more respectful of Aboriginal communities and private land holders.

During six months of consultations, more than 1,000 people and groups participated in public and stakeholder sessions across the province. Input was also received through the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry. The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines also carried out comprehensive Aboriginal consultations to ensure the broadest possible Aboriginal participation and input. In total, approximately 100 First Nation communities, as well as Aboriginal organizations participated in some manner.

If the legislation is passed, there would be additional opportunities for input over the coming months as regulations are developed.


For Aboriginal Communities

Ontario would become the first jurisdiction in Canada to expressly recognize Aboriginal and treaty rights in its mining legislation, and enable a dispute resolution process for Aboriginal-related mining issues through regulation.

Proposals would also address key concerns of Aboriginal communities. For instance, Ontario's modernization approach would include:

* Provisions for withdrawing significant Aboriginal cultural sites from claim staking;
* Notification of Aboriginal communities immediately after a claim is staked;
* Requirements for prospectors and companies to notify Aboriginal communities of plans for significant exploration activities within their traditional lands;
* Provisions to enable restrictions on prescribed prospecting and exploration activities;
* Introduction of a graduated approach to Aboriginal consultation, with the scope and degree tied to impact of proposed exploration activities. This approach would:
o Outline consultation requirements
o Require environmental rehabilitation
o Require exploration work plans or permits.

The ministry will invite further input from First Nation communities and Aboriginal organizations as Ontario develops regulations and implements the changes.

For Private Land Owners

The proposed legislation would address conflicts that have arisen between mineral exploration companies and surface rights holders who do not hold the mineral rights on their lands. For instance, Ontario would:

* Withdraw mining rights in southern Ontario where surface rights are privately held, while respecting existing claims and leases. In Northern Ontario, private land holders could apply for such withdrawals but granting withdrawals would first consider criteria such as mineral potential;
* Broaden the list of lands not open to staking;
* Require enhanced notification of private land owners, after claim-staking and prior to exploration;
* Introduce new exploration provisions such as a graduated regulatory regime for exploration;
* Introduce a map staking system that would eliminate the need for prospectors to enter onto property to stake mining claims. Map staking would be phased in beginning in southern Ontario.

In addition, owners of land originally patented for mining purposes, but not currently being used for mining purposes, would be able to apply for an exemption from mining land tax.

Lands with private surface rights and Crown mineral rights that are open for staking comprise only 1.4 per cent of southern Ontario's landmass, and only 0.4 per cent of Northern Ontario's landmass.

For the Mineral Industry

Ontario's proposed legislation would increase clarity for the mineral industry by outlining requirements for consultation -- and accommodation as appropriate -- with Aboriginal communities, while maintaining fair and competitive access to mineral tenure.

It includes a graduated regulatory scheme for early exploration, with exploration plans required for lower impact activities and exploration permits required for activities with higher impact. Regulations would provide the details for exploration plans and permits, including requirements for rehabilitation; Aboriginal consultation and working on private surface rights.

The proposed legislation would increase certainty for the industry by setting out a clear framework for the responsible management and sustainable development of Ontario's mineral resources.

It would also foster early engagement and enhanced relationships between Aboriginal communities and companies.

Ontario would be the first Canadian jurisdiction to enable a dispute resolution process for Aboriginal-related mining issues in its mining legislation.

Environmental Considerations

Proposed legislation responds to calls for greater consideration for the environment.

It would reduce impacts to the environment by implementing a new graduated regulatory scheme for early exploration activities to include rehabilitation requirements.

It would embed in legislation that no new mine opening can occur in the Far North unless there is an approved community-based land use plan.

The phased introduction of map staking across the province would eliminate the minimal impact of ground staking.

Compliance with the new requirements would be encouraged through increases to maximum penalties for offences against the Act.

Anne-Marie Flanagan, MNDM Minister's Office, 416-327-0655

New mining act earns mixed reviews


1st May 2009

Proposed changes to Ontario's Mining Act that would see the introduction of a new map staking system and eliminate the need for prospectors to physically visit properties to stake mining claims, don't sit well with the head of a mining exploration company based in Greater Sudbury.

"I certainly question the (proposed) rules with staking," said Grayme Anthony, president and chief executive officer of Houston Lake Mining. "Prospectors need to go out and stake without interference or blocking what they need to do ... People have the right to go out and walk around freely, see what's there. If you tell people what you are going to do, claims get jumped."

Changes to the way mining claims are staked are among four areas addressed in proposed changes to the Mining Act announced Thursday by the province.

Highlights of the proposed changes include:

* Ontario would become the first jurisdiction in Canada to expressly recognize aboriginal and treaty rights in its mining legislation and enable a dispute resolution process for aboriginal-related mining issues through regulation;

* No new mine opening can occur in the Far North unless there is an approved community-based land use plan;

* Notification of aboriginal communities immediately after a claim is staked;

* Requirements for prospectors and companies to notify aboriginal communities of plans for significant exploration activities within their traditional lands;

* Enhanced notification of private land owners after claim staking and prior to exploration;

* The introduction of a graduated regulatory system for early exploration, including exploration plans for lower-impact activities and exploration permits required for activities with higher impact;

* Setting out a clear framework for the responsible management and sustainable development of the province's mineral resources.

Houston Lake Mining is an exploration company actively exploring for gold, platinum-group metal and rare metal deposits in northwestern Ontario.

Anthony said he also has a concern with the proposed increased consultation process with aboriginal communities.

"I think you have to respect people who work in the area," he said. "I have worked all over the world. If (aboriginal communities) have to give approval in the process, you may be giving them the right to extort things from you."

Anthony added that with the Environmental Act already adding considerable time to the process whereby a mineral find moves along to the production stage, the proposed Mining Act changes could make the process an even longer one.

The 2009 Ontario budget committed $40 million over three years for initiatives to support Mining Act modernization. According to the government, mining currently provides Ontario with a trade surplus of about $3.3 billion a year.

The proposed changes are the product of six months of consultation that involved more than 1,000 people and groups in public and stakeholder sessions held across the province. Input was also received through the Environmental Bill of Rights registry.

The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines also held consultations with aboriginal organizations and communities.

"Ontario's new collaborative approach to developing legislation and public policy is certainly innovative," said John Beaucage, grand council chief of the 42- member First Nations of the Anishinabek Nation, in a news release.

"It is respectful to the recognition of First Nations' rights and indicative of Ontario's commitment to working with First Nations on a government-to-government basis."

Michael Gravelle, Ontario's Northern Development and Mines minister, told reporters during a visit to Greater Sudbury in early April that the goal of the new act is balance.

"We want to maintain and promote an investment climate, yet protect the interests of aboriginal peoples on their lands," he said. "There will be proposals for development that will be good for business and all Ontarians, yet allow companies to process their claims while respecting the rights of individuals."

Gravelle said the draft "will satisfy the industry and result in new opportunities in the North."

The minister told reporters the mining industry made it loud and clear about what it wanted in the new act: clarity.

Cory McPhee, Vale Inco's director of communications and public affairs, said "the process leading to these revisions was an inclusive one that provided ample opportunity for input. From the announcement today, the government appears to have done a good job balancing the needs for appropriate aboriginal consultation with the need to encourage and promote value-added exploration activities -- with clear guidelines established for all the players.

"It's important to remember that exploration is the lifeblood of the mining industry, 1 as finding the minerals in the first place is the first step in the development process."

Serpent River First Nation Statement

First Nation Leader says Ontario Mining Act Neglects Uranium Issues, CNW

1st May 2009

CUTLER, ON- Chief Isadore Day, Wiindawtegowinini of the Serpent River and Lake Huron Treaty Commissioner is not totally convinced that changes to the Ontario Mining Act released on April 30th 2009 are dealing with all the important issues. "We are not seeing uranium exploration and development issues being swept under the rug."

Serpent River First Nation is located on the northern shores of Lake Huron and is located due south of Elliot Lake Ontario which was once coined as the "Uranium Capital of the World." This says Chief Isadore Day is the elephant in the middle of the room on all of this activity with respect to changes to the Ontario Mining Act. "Uranium is such a critical discussion and Ontario and Canada are showing no responsible collaboration during this process."

"We are home to a major lake basin that has been historically impacted by radioactive mineral waste from spills and run-off from mine tailings between the 1950's and the 1990's," says Chief Day, "It concerns me a great deal that Ontario refuses to acknowledge that uranium mining needs special triggers within the Act that explicitly define, determine, and direct appropriate requirements as it pertains to uranium exploration."

It has been well over a year now since the First Nation has taken a default position in saying "NO" to uranium mineral exploration or development. The community seeks the appropriate process to substantiate its claims that their territory has been far too impacted by uranium mining and that obvious mortality has occurred as a result of uranium activities in their traditional and treaty lands.

Currently, Serpent River First Nation is eagerly working out an arrangement where the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines has put a meager amount of financial resources on the table to work out details of a "pre-consultation" process on uranium mining developments and exploration.

We have been pressing hard on the ministry to have Ontario recognize the need to assess current conditions of lands from historical mining activity, specifically on lands impacted by uranium mining. Also, we want to know what the capacities are for a First Nation to be "consultation-ready" and what specific consultation process and provisions will be in place and agreed upon by all parties to engage a fair process. Day says that the "Pre-Consultation" mechanism speaks to a gap that exists in the current understanding of the duty to consult that rests with the Crown.

The First Nation is further taking this position because it believes there is disconnect between provincial regulations on uranium mineral exploration and federally regulated jurisdictions on production and waste management of uranium. This legislative gap between jurisdictions will mean huge problems should industry wish to proceed in the future. "It is clear that there is a need for harmonization triggers that ensure there is a responsible and consistent thread of due diligence between Canada and Ontario", says Day,

"It is very discouraging to watch two governments work in a silo mentality on such a major issue that has extreme environmental concerns attached."

Chief Isadore Day, also the Lake Huron Treaty Commissioner says "Minister the window of opportunity is open for dealing with uranium in the Ontario Mining Act." Chief Day also wants Ontario to know that consultation thresholds will increase in months and years to come as Ontario and Canada are called to deal with Treaty Implementation. "In this case, Ontario needs to know that Treaty First Nations in Ontario are not a one-community-based consultation horse and pony show. Uranium mineral exploration and developments will be scrutinized and called to task by the collective of First Nations in the Robinson Huron Treaty."

Chief Day calls on the McGuinty government to sit down with Treaty representatives and deal directly with the lack of response and focus on uranium in the changes to Ontario Mining Act.

Statement from Union of Ontario Indians

New Mining Act respects Treaty rights: Beaucage, CNW

30th April 2009

TORONTO- Anishinabek Nation leader John Beaucage, currently campaigning for the office of National Chief, has applauded a new legislative process undertaken by the Province of Ontario to amend its century-old Mining Act.

"The Mining Amendment Act will be the first piece of provincial legislation that expressly recognizes and affirms First Nations Treaty and aboriginal rights," said the Grand Council Chief, on behalf of 42 member Anishinabek First Nations. "Ontario's new collaborative approach to developing legislation and public policy is certainly innovative. It is respectful to the recognition of our rights and indicative of the province's commitment to working with First Nations on a government-to-government basis."

Introduced today, the Act includes provisions for First Nations to protect from mining development lands that have culturally-significant sites. Beaucage said the new legislation means the Crown, industry and all stakeholders must recognize and affirm the Treaties.

"Ministers Gravelle and Duguid deserve credit for their vision and have shown real leadership at the Cabinet table," said Beaucage. "We hope this process is reflected in the development of all future laws that may have an impact on First Nations."

New provisions for digital map staking and notification of First Nation communities also protect sensitive areas within traditional territories from unwanted exploitation.

One significant amendment to the existing Mining Act requires developers to create work plans for provincial approval outlining how they will be engaging with and consulting with First Nations.

"Consultation and accommodation of First Nations interests on our traditional territories is absolutely necessary," said Beaucage. "However, we have to move beyond basic consultation towards engagement and signing of impact benefit agreements between mining companies and First Nations. Agreements are the most practical means of achieving consent, collaboration and obtaining support for any given project."

An Anishinabek Nation consultation process produced 31 specific recommendations of over 100 submitted by First Nations through a technical table led by Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.

"Certainly, the new Mining Amendment Act does not fully address all the concerns of our First Nations -- such as our opposition to uranium development, stronger involvement in decision-making processes, and stronger protections on water and the environment," said Beaucage. "However, we will take these small victories and continue to advocate for our communities and actively encourage mining development and exploration and dialogue in our territory."

Grand Council Chief Beaucage is encouraging the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines to include grass-roots First Nations and their mining technical experts in the development of corresponding regulations and throughout the implementation of the new Mining Amendment Act.

The Anishinabek Nation established the Union of Ontario Indians as its political advocate and secretariat in 1949. The Union of Ontario Indians is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires that have existed long before European contact.

For further information: Bob Goulais, Executive Assistant to the Grand Council Chief, (705) 498-5250, E-mail:; Marci Becking, Communications Officer, Union of Ontario Indians, Phone: (705) 497-9127 (ext.
2290), Cell: (705) 494-0735 ,E-mail:

Mattawa First Nation Statement

Canada NewsWire

30th April 2009

Ontario has ignored input from First Nation consultation process: a Matawa First Nations response to the proposed legislation to modernize Ontario's Mining Act.

THUNDER BAY, ON- In response to the proposed legislation to modernize Ontario's Mining Act, as introduced by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines today, Matawa First Nations are gravely disappointed that the proposed legislation has not sufficiently considered the input provided by the Matawa people during Ontario's consultation process.

Chief Sol Atlookan, spokesperson for Matawa First Nations, said:

"If the Government is serious about improving Ontario's Mining Act to be more respectful of Aboriginal people, they must take our input seriously and specifically regarding the fundamental issues of Duty to Consult and advance consent.

During the consultation process, the Matawa First Nations people made it overwhelming clear to Ontario that any act of exploration, staking or mining activity on First Nation traditional lands without consent is intrusive of First Nation's Treaty Rights and that consent from the community must be sought prior to the start of any activity. Our people stated time and again that they are willing to work together and build productive relationships with the mining industry, provided that they are duly informed of potential activities in advance of staking.

Today's proposed legislation introduces no changes to enforce the Duty to Consult at the community level, to ensure that industry has community consent prior to engaging in staking activities or to set in place appropriate working protocols and structures. Our major concerns specifically related to the proposed approach from Ontario include:

What is the purpose of notifying our communities immediately after a stake is claimed, what constitutes notification and who decides if the notification was sufficient?

What is and who decides what constitutes 'significant' exploration activities within traditional lands?

Where are the provisions for accommodating First Nations in terms of economic development and resource revenue sharing opportunities?

Where is the requirement for industry to enter into Impact and Benefit Agreements if the project moves to the advanced stage?

Approved community-based land use plans should be required all over Ontario in all parts of Ontario, not just the "Far North".

Matawa First Nation community members respectfully requested that consultation from industry should take place in the community and at the community level and that consent from the community has to be the major priority before any claim staking takes place. Once again, the voices of our First Nations people have been shockingly ignored. We are also concerned that the legislative review process will not allow for any meaningful changes to the legislation. As far as our communities are concerned, we have wasted all our time and resources with this process to be at business as usual after today's announcement."


Matawa First Nations are nine Northern Ontario First Nations located within Treaty 9 territory.

The First Nations represented include: Aroland, Constance Lake, Eabametoong, Ginoogaming, Long Lake No.58, Marten Falls, Neskantaga, Nibinamik, and Webequie First Nations.

There are a number of areas of interest to mineral developers in the region including one of the hottest exploration plays in the province, the McFaulds Lake area, in which over 40 companies are investigating significant nickel-copper, copper-zinc and chromium deposits.

Media Contact: Stephanie Ash, Communications Officer, Tel: (807) 767-4443 ext: 222, Email:

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