Public Lands Act
In Ontario, a regulation made under Bill 26 (the Savings and Restructuring Act introduced in January 1996) enabled profound changes to the Public Lands Act.
Ontario Forest Accord
Included in the Ontario Forest Accord, announced March 1999, were government promises to respect existing mineral rights in lands selected for new parks and conservation areas. "Low impact" staking and exploration would also be allowed in new parks, in those areas designated as having "provincially significant mineral potential." Park lands could be "borrowed" for mining purposes, and would be returned to parks after mining operations ceased; meanwhile, land of equal natural heritage value would be substituted for the "borrowed" lands.
Ontario's Municipal Industrial Strategy for Abatement (MISA)
In Ontario, the potential for compliance with MISA standards was diminished with the reduction of monitoring requirements, and the disbanding of the MISA advisory committee in 1995. The mining industry lobby in Ontario called in 1996 for weakening of effluent testing requirements under MISA, and complete exemptions from testing for operators using "Best Available Treatment Economically Achievable" pollution control equipment. Although the lobby effort failed, the weak regulatory mood is evidenced by the industry's assessment of government's openness to such a scheme.
Ontario's Mining Act
Ontario's Mining Act can be found here: http://www.mndm.gov.on.ca/en/mines-and-minerals/mining-act
Amendments to the Mining Act requiring progressive rehabilitation, site closure plans and financial assurance requirements came into force in 1991. In keeping with the deregulation agenda of the Harris government, many of the achieved mining reforms were dismantled in the mid and late 1990's, some before they had been implemented.
Mine Closure and Rehabilitation:
- The requirement to post "realizable financial securities" against risk of bankruptcy and public liability for mine closure costs was eliminated, and replaced with an option for mining companies to "self assure", meaning they could meet a financial means test instead of posting real securities, the net effect being that taxpayers are more likely to pay for the costs of remediation or clean-up. This policy is likely to increase the number of abandoned mines.
- Information respecting financial assurances for mine closures and submitted to government was exempted from access to information legislation, making public access to such information less likely.
- Annual reporting requirements to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines on mine closure plans were eliminated, which implies the loss of a key measure of accountability in implementing plans.
- Holders of mining claims were exempted from statutory liability for 'pre-existing mine hazards', if they surrendered their leases within twelve months of the Bill 26 amendments to the Mining Act.
- Another key change to the Mining Act was to allow the approval of mine closure plans to be delegated to any person designated by regulation, a change that would allow self- regulation of mine closure systems by the private sector. Prior to these changes, the practice of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) was to co-ordinate a review of closure plans among the Ministries of Environment, Labour, and Natural Resources before acceptance by MNDM. With these changes, a mine owner could still seek the approval of the Director of Mine Rehabilitation, however, the option now exists to simply file the closure plan, so long as it is certified by the Chief Financial Officer of the company and then 'accepted' by MNDM.
The West Coast Environmental Law group has created a brief summary on Free Entry here: www.wcel.org/wcelpub/2004/14095.htm
You can also check out their longer publication on Free Entry here: www.wcel.org/wcelpub/2004/14094.pdf
You can also check out a document at the bottom of this page that outlines the processes of staking a claim and prospecting private land, the rights of landowners, and to dispute claims.
The Bedford Mining Alert is a group of citizens in Bedford District, South Frontenac Township in the Province of Ontario, Canada. They are concerned about the growing threat of mining in this region. Their website can be accessed at: http://www.bedfordminingalert.ca/.
The Bedford Mining Alert has written a letter to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, outlining their concerns about the Ontario Mining Act and Free Entry.
Letter to the Minister re: Ontario Mining Act
The Honourable Minister
Ministry of Northern Development and Mines
5630-99 Wellesley St W, 5th Flr, Whitney Block
Toronto ON M7A 1W3
Dear Mr. Bartolucci,
I am writing to urge you to bring the Mining Act of Ontario into the 21st century. The Mining Act of Ontario does not protect the rights of property owners nor does it provide a secure base of land tenure for surface rights holders.
The mining industry is given unrestricted access to surface rights owners' lands in the search for minerals and priority has been given to mining rights over those of other land uses including privacy of the home and agricultural uses.
It may be possible to consider multiple land use (such as mining and logging) on crown lands, but to include mining as a compatible use with residential, recreational and agriculture is unacceptable.
Citizens recently voted for change in Ontario. We expect the Liberal Government to better balance the needs of today's mining industry and the realities of our communities.
I join hundreds of Ontario landowners working to change the way the Government handles mining claims in our residential and rural communities.
- Legislation which allows the Provincial Mining Recorder and the Mining and Lands Commissioner to order the staking out and prospecting on land without the owners' consent should be eliminated.
- Property owners should not be forced into expropriation of their land to benefit a mining interest;
- Prospectors should be trained, certified and regulated; as is the case with any other holder of a licence granted by the province;
- Prospectors should abide by restrictions and land use policies set out in municipal Official Plans and By-laws;
- Consultation and consent of the surface owners should take place prior to any exploration work;
- An independent tribunal should control mediation and dispute processes between land owners and claim holders;
- Surface rights owners should have the opportunity to have mineral rights returned to their properties.
I look forward to your comments on all of these issues.