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Ontario Ministry of Mines' Problematic Approach to Environmental Assessment of Mining Projects

Comments on the Proposed Terms of Reference for a Class Environmental Assessment for Activities of the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry Under the Mining Act

Submitted to: Andrea Berenkey, Project Officer
Environmental Assessment and Approvals Branch
Ministry of the Environment
Sent by Email to: Andrea.Berenkey[at]Ontario.ca

EBR registry # 011-2369

cc: Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Peter Tabuns MPP, Green Party of Ontario, Ontario Mining Action Network, Matawa Council, Mushkegowuk Council, Grand Council Treaty 3, Chiefs of Ontario, Nishnawbe Aski Nation

Submitted by: Ramsey Hart,
Canada Program Coordinator, MiningWatch Canada
ramsey[at]miningwatch.ca

June 6, 2011

In March of this year, MiningWatch was one of several organizations to submit comments to the MNDMF expressing concern about the narrow vision and scope the department is taking with regards to environmental assessment of mining activities. The MNDMF has responded to these concerns in the Consultation Record stating repeatedly that the current Class EA process will only examine projects under its narrow definition of discretionary activities. The Ministry explains away our concerns about its narrow focus with reference to its narrow focus and has done nothing to justify the exclusion of “mining projects” from the Environmental Assessment Act, except to say that it has no discretion to allow or not allow a mine to be developed.

Ontario is the only jurisdiction in Canada that does not apply its own EA legislation to mine development and several jurisdictions also apply their EA process to mineral exploration. Clearly Ontario is out of step with the rest of Canada and Ontarian’s expectations regarding decision making about mining in the province.

The perspectives of Ontarians were expressed prior to and during the Mining Act Modernization process when First Nations organizations and civil society organizations highlighted the need to incorporate environmental assessment into the Mining Act modernization process led by MNDMF. These concerns were consistent with those that had been expressed by Ontario’s Environment Commissioner in 2007. This is the “problem” we referenced in our March submission – the lack of consistent comprehensive review of mining projects, a problem that MNDMF is well aware of given the number of the organizations that raised the concerns about the lack of EA for mining during the consultations on the Mining Act. These included but were not limited to:

    • Chiefs of Ontario
    • Nishnawbe Aski Nation
    • Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy
    • Council of Canadians
    • EcoJustice
    • Federation of Ontario Cottage Associations
    • MiningWatch Canada
    • Northwatch
    • Ontario Bar Association
    • Wildlands League

When participants in public consultations raised the concern about the lack of environmental assessment the were told that EA was to be dealt with outside of the specific reforms to the Mining Act. The recent consultation process on the Class EA provided interested organizations with another opportunity to make their concerns known.  If MNDMF continues to ignore these organizations and will not broaden the current discussion around discretionary dispositions and abandoned mine rehabilitation on Crown land, we must ask both the MNDMF and the Ministry of the Environment when and how it plans on addressing the need for environmental assessment of all mining projects.

Until this outstanding issue is addressed Ontario will be far from having a modern mining regime.

Due to the extremely narrow application of the proposed Class EA process MiningWatch declines to comment on the details of current Terms of Reference and looks forward to an opportunity to discuss a more meaningful application of EA to mining in Ontario.

Regards,

Ramsey Hart