From October 13 to 15, MiningWatch hosted the annual Ontario Mining Action Network workshop in Thunder Bay. Over the past 6 years the network has provided an effective forum to share experiences and proposals for reform across the province. This year two visitors from the Northwest Territories were invited to share their experiences.
Kevin O’Reilly, a member of MiningWatch’s board of directors and manager of the Ekati Independent Environmental Monitoring Agency, and Stephen Ellis,who works with the Lutsel K’e Dene were shocked to see images and hear stories about the exploration activities that can currently occur in Ontario with little or no government oversight or regulation. The jaw dropping presentations were made by Brennain Lloyd from Northwatch and Anna Baggio from the Wildlands League, both of whom had spent part of the summer visiting exploration sites. Anna showed images of exploration camps, trails and drilling areas from the McFaulds Lake area (the “Ring of Fire”). Brennain had visited sites in the “near north” around North Bay and Elliot Lake and found layering of impacts from past activities that were never rehabilitated with more recent activity making it difficult to determine who was responsible for many of the messes she discovered.
Following Brennain and Anna, MiningWatch’s Ramsey Hart gave an update on the Mining Act ‘modernization’ process. Under Ontario’s new Mining Act there will be regulations for the review of exploration activities and requirements for remediation, though the regulations may not be written and enacted for another year or more.
Other presentations ranged from the scientific and technical to the more philosophical. Bob Lovelace presented his ideas on “Indigenizing Land” and Paula Sherman spoke about Algonquin Law and mining. Both Paula and Bob are from the Ardoch Algonquin Nation. Scientific perspectives on potential impacts of mining in the far north (of Ontario) were offered up by Alex Litnov from the Mushkegowuk Environmental Research Centre and Cheryl Chetkiewicz from the Wildlife Conservation Society. Sue Chiblow of the Chiefs of Ontario provided an introduction to their Environmental Assessment Toolkit and Larry Innes from the Canadian Boreal Initiative spoke about a toolkit available for communities to better understand Impact Benefit Agreements. Elizar McKay shared his experience as the coordinator of the Musselwhite Agreement and Murray Klippenstein challenged accepted notions of Treaty 9 being a surrendering of land to the crown.
Most of the presentations were filmed and highlights are being edited into a short video. Both the highlights and full presentations will be posted on the MiningWatch web site.