Mixed Reaction at Ontario Mining Act Consultations – by Bill Bradley

Northern Life, Greater Sudbury’s community newspaper, gave Republic of Mining.com permission to post Bill Bradley’s article. www.northernlife.ca

Reaction was mixed at the provincial Mining Act consultations Wednesday night at the Howard Johnson Hotel on Brady Street. Some prospectors fumed they were not being properly consulted and bolted from the meeting while others stayed to express their concerns.

There is a process now underway to revise the Mining Act arising from promises made during the last provincial election.

“There is going to be new legislation developed this fall from issues arising from the far north protection of the boreal forest initiative by Premier McGuinty announced July 14 to bring in the interests of First Nations,” said Anne-Marie Flanagan with Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle’s office.

“But the Mining Act covers the whole province including the rights of private property owners.”

The sessions are the first step in a consultation approach according to a discussion paper entitled Modernizing Ontario’s Mining Act: Finding A Balance that was handed out in the Sudbury session.

To be included in the discussions are the minerals industry, municipalities and other stakeholders, First Nations and Metis leaders, as well as input from First Nations communities across Ontario.

Participants were asked to mull over a number of questions arising from five sections of the document; from how to deal with property owners who do own subsurface mineral rights, to engaging and informing nearby First Nations, to effectively regulating mineral exploration to reduce environmental impacts and to ensuring the mineral industry remains viable financially.

During the introductions by facilitator John McHugh of the Ministry of Northern Affairs and Mines a number of prospectors stormed out of the meeting, claiming they were not given sufficient notice nor would their concerns be heard anyway.

“I have no confidence in this issue,” said Les Kosowan, a Sudbury prospector.

He stated when informed that a major part of the consultations was about how First Nations issues could be effectively brought into the process, he said that it was all a waste of time.

“Look, dealing with them (First Nations) will just prolong the process so much that we will go broke before we can get a mining project underway. It is a waste of time dealing with them,” he said.

William Boot, an Ottawa-based prospector, said the government had already predetermined the outcome of the discussions and that it meant there was no legitimacy in the consultation process.

Gino Chitaroni, president of Blackstone Developments from Cobalt, said the lack of proper consultations with prospectors’ associations is spooking industry.

“This is not only a waste of time but poor timing. Because of the faltering economy we are now seeing junior companies having trouble raising money for development work. That will affect the northern economy since mining is the only industry left here. Towns like Matachewan in my area, which have not seen a new mine since the 1950s, have suffered. It looks like they will be getting a new mine soon. Let’s not stop good news stories like that,” he said.

However, Christine Kaszycki, assistant deputy minister, said this was only the first step in the process.

“We are talking to various groups to get their insights. There will be more opportunities for them to gives us their feedback,” she said.

Others present had a different view of the consultations.

Kim Tyler, president of Sudbury-based Canadian Arrow Mining, an upstart junior company with over a dozen properties in northwestern Ontario, was comfortable with a new emphasis on dealing properly with First Nations and environmental concerns.

“Dealing with First Nations is easy. Try knocking on their door first. Inform them what you are doing and what opportunities there for their members in terms of future jobs,” he said.

Tyler also said environmental impacts can be substantially reduced by new technology.

“Most mining jurisdictions in Canada now use mostly airborne geophysics to find and map deposits as opposed to going out and cutting lines on the ground. In modern exploration work the ecological footprint is shrinking,” said Tyler.

Tyler won an award from Anishinawbe Nation communities in Treaty 3 for his public relations successes with them.

Canadian Arrow is close to bringing its Kenbridge nickel-copper deposit, east of Sioux Narrows in northwestern Ontario, into open pit production by 2009, having just published a preliminary economic assessment.

Other Mining Act consultation meetings were held in Timmins (August 11). Next will be Thunder Bay (August 18), Kingston (August 28) and Toronto (September 8).

For more information phone 1-888-415-9845 or visit miningact@ontario.ca.