Ontario, the largest mineral producer in Canada, is modernizing its Mining Act. These six postings are from a provincial policy document – titled “Modernizing Ontario’s Mining Act – Finding A Balance” produced by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines.
What We Have Learned So Far
Consultation with Aboriginal Communities
In February 2007, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines released a discussion paper, Toward Developing an Aboriginal Consultation Approach for Mineral Sector Activities, and initiated a collaborative engagement process with the goal of developing an improved Aboriginal consultation approach.
The ministry held community-based discussions across Ontario, met with several political territorial organizations and tribal councils, as well as the Métis Nation of Ontario, and held several facilitated workshops. Through these discussions, we learned that Aboriginal communities have a variety of views on mineral sector activities, and when and how they want to be consulted.
Aboriginal communities told us:
• They want to be consulted and accommodated at all stages of the mining sequence, including preliminary exploration
• They desire meaningful participation in land use decision making and economic development
• They desire a measure of control over development within their traditional territories, including proposed activities before exploration work is undertaken
• They require assistance to build capacity that would allow them to participate fully.
Based on what we have heard, the ministry has implemented a transitional approach to consultation that includes a pilot project to protect sites of significant spiritual and cultural value from staking; notifying new mining claim holders on when and how to engage Aboriginal communities; and providing quarterly maps and reports to First Nations showing any recent claims recorded in their general vicinity.
The ministry has also undertaken relationship building that has led to Memoranda of Understanding or Communication with three First Nation communities in the Far North. It has pursued further collaboration under the Far North Geological Mapping Initiative with several others.
Surface rights and mining rights
Traditional claim staking systems require prospectors to go onto the ground and physically mark out their claim using wooden posts and a prescribed staking method.
Map staking, on the other hand, does not require physical entry on land to acquire a claim. Using a map that shows where mineral rights are available, it allows prospectors to select and register their claims, either manually with paper maps or through an automated or electronic manner that uses a GeographicInformation System.
The ministry has consulted on issues of concern to private property owners, with particular focus on southern Ontario. Based on advice from the Minister’s Mining Act Advisory Committee, which includes representation from the mineral industry, surface rights stakeholders, tourist operators, environmental organizations and Aboriginal organizations, the ministry posted proposed Mining Act changes on the Environmental Registry in July 2007. Proposals for where surface rights are privately held included provisions that would place greater restrictions on areas open to staking, stronger notification requirements after staking and prior to exploration, as well as the introduction of map staking. Input received is reflected in this discussion paper.
The ministry undertook extensive consultations across the province on Ontario’s Mineral Development Strategy. Input was received from 38 organizations, Northern Development Councils, First Nation and Métis leadership, several First Nation communities, tribal councils and political territorial organizations.
Participants stressed the need for stronger relationships between Aboriginal communities and the mineral sector, as well as enhanced communications among all groups.
The ministry has also considered comments received through other engagement vehicles, including current discussions on the development of the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario. Northerners have told us of the importance mining plays in the economic prosperity of their communities.