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Mining's Privileged Access to Land Challenged: Bedford Mine Alert

Jamie Kneen Communications and Outreach Coordinator responsible for: strategic research, social media, and public engagement; our Africa program, environmental assessment, and uranium mining.

Cottagers and residents of Bedford County, Ontario have found out what it means to lose the mineral rights to your property. If someone wants to prospect or develop a mine in your front yard, you are only entitled to compensation, not to stop it.

Bedford is in the Rideau Lakes area of the province about a half hour north of Kingston, near Westport. It is a mixture of local people and cottagers. Many of the cottagers have had their property for years and intend to retire there. Tourism is a major economic generator in the region.

The community, including the Mayor, is upset because a company - Graphite Mountain - has obtained some 12-year-old claims and staked a number of new ones on local properties, and wants to build a graphite mine.

All of the landowners had surrendered the subsurface rights to the Crown when they bought their properties.

They say they want two things: to stop the mine, and to change the Mining Act. They have no interest in any financial compensation for their land. Many of them have planted trees and use it recreationally. The county of South Frontenac is opposed because it thinks the mine will affect property assessment, tourism and water.

The mine will be on a lake, and the lake drains into the Tay River and from there to the Rideau Canal. The Tay is already under threat from OMYA's operation near Perth. The area is of great environmental interest (see "OMYA in Canada" site).

There was a graphite mine in the region previously - the Stewart Lake Mine - which had made promises of jobs and economic benefits, but closed down quite quickly and left behind only the abandoned mine, so there are no illusions about mine benefits.

The committee (Bedford Mine Alert) has 70-80 signed up members, and a strong steering committee. They have written to the Minister of Mines on a number of occasions, and many of them appealed the new claims under Section 32 of the Mining Act to the Registrar of Mines. He wrote back to them saying he would allow the mining claims and that they should negotiate with the company owner so that he might avoid mining their gardens, house or crops. They are going to appeal this decision.

The Ottawa Citizen published a story on December 17.