Since the current process began last year, MiningWatch Canada has taken a keen interest in “modernizing” the Ontario Mining Act. We have been actively engaging with other NGOs and First Nations across the province to analyse the current mining regime and to develop solutions to the problems we have observed.
On April 30, 2009, the provincial government released its proposed changes to the Act in Bill 173, An Act to Amend the Mining Act. The Bill has been through second reading in Queen’s Park and a 60 day consultation period has been announced. While there are some notable improvements contained within Bill 173, it misses the mark on several key issues. Our review is in two parts; Part I addresses our priority concerns and is reflective of our original recommendations. Part II reviews the act by section providing comments on all sections where the proposed changes are of particular interest or concern to MiningWatch. The full report can be downloaded from this page below.
From the review
In our review we have found two overarching aspects of Bill 173 to be of concern:
- The high degree of Ministerial discretion;
- Important aspects of the new regime are being left to the development of regulations.
Completely absent from the proposed legislation are any amendments addressing environmental assessment, improvements in mine closure and financial securities, revenue sharing, or uranium exploration and exploitation.
A cornerstone of Bill 173 is the recognition of Aboriginal rights to consultation (Sections 2, 78, 139.2, 140 and 141). In essence the amendments make apparent the existing legal requirement to consult with aboriginal groups. Bill 173 does not, however, include reference to “accommodation” which is also a requirement under the constitution and supported by case law. In our submission we recommended that a truly modern mining act would recognise the right to Free Prior and Informed Consent of aboriginal as stated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Issuing of permits for exploration (Section 78) is a necessary and positive amendment that could provide opportunities to publicly evaluate the potential impacts of mineral development projects and to address concerns about a project as early as possible in the mining sequence. We are certainly pleased to see that Bill 173 includes provisions for permitting, and that granting permits will be contingent on aboriginal consultation and “arrangements” with surface rights owners. Missing from the proposed amendment is that the granting of a permit should also be dependent on a consideration of the potential environmental impacts, and consultation with other interested parties (ex. municipalities, neighbouring residents, conservation authorities, tourism operators).