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Ontario: The Old Mining Act Works!

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

Over the past three years, members of Bedford Mining Alert (north of Kingston, Ontario) have brought several disputes before the Provincial Mining Recorder and the Mining and Lands Commissioner.

Most have challenged the “right of free entry” by prospectors on private lands. As the Mining and Lands Commissioner has already ruled, “access to land for staking is based on the free entry system. The free entry system is premised on the subject lands being considered open for staking.” The heart of the matter has been Section 32 of the Ontario Mining Act which exempts from staking and prospecting certain improvements such as a dwelling house, crops which may be damaged etc without either the consent of the land owner or a previous order from either the Recorder or the Commissioner. To view the cases see the MNDM web site: http://www.mndm.gov.on.ca/en.

What has evolved is the discovery that consent is required prior to staking, and that the Recorder cannot record claims which have improvements exempt without that consent in place.

The recent case of Wollasco v. Price is about prospectors who entered and attempted to stake a claim on lands used as pasture land on a farm south west of Sharbot Lake near Kingston. The Recorder relied on Section 32 to determine pasture lands were exempt from staking and Section 46(2) to bar them from registering the claim. Wollasco appealed the decision to the Mining and Lands Commissioner who heard the case July 5, 2003 and has yet to deliver a decision.

The nut of the whole issue is that the Recorders office has begun to take private property rights seriously. Bedford Mining Alert members have been determined to bring about changes to the Act and while proposed legislation is being reviewed the really good news is that the old Act when interpreted in an unbiased manner does protect the land owner.

Ministry staff including the Senior Manager Mining Lands and the Recorders have been reviewing the change of interpretation with prospectors groups and advising them of the new steps necessary to comply with the Act.

After three years of sometimes less than amicable relations between Bedford Mining Alert and MNDM, Mining Minister Jim Wilson’s delegates attended the Bedford Mining Alert Annual meeting near Westport in July and were applauded for their change of heart and direction. Both sides should be proud of their efforts and the ground they have covered.

The changes on how ‘free entry’ is viewed in Ontario are important as they are being carefully monitored by the other Provinces.

- Peter Griesbach, Bedford Mining Alert