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.
Ontario’s Mining Act
The purpose of the Mining Act, which applies throughout Ontario, is “to encourage prospecting, staking and exploration for the development of mineral resources and to minimize the impact of these activities on public health and safety and the environment through rehabilitation of mining lands in Ontario.”
Despite its name, the Mining Act has limited application in the day-to-day activities of operating mines. Generally, it focuses on activities that occur before and after mineral production. These activities include the acquisition and maintenance of mineral rights – claim staking, prospecting, mineral exploration and mine development related to mining land tenure – and the safe, environmentally sustainable closure of mining operations.
The Mining Act does not, however, regulate the following matters, which are covered by other legislation:
• Environmental standards for air, water or land
• Health and safety standards
• Lands in parks and protected areas
• Uranium mining (regulated by federal government, however early exploration is regulated by province)
• Land use planning.
A Historical Perspective
Regulation of mining in Ontario began in 1845, when the province was still known as Upper Canada, through a collection of statutes that regulated exploration rights, licensing, reporting requirements and land tenure, and established revenue streams, such as taxes, royalties and fees.
In 1864, these statutes were consolidated through the Gold Mining Act, which governed ‘quartz’ and gold mining. It also introduced mining inspectors to administer and enforce the act.
After Confederation, the Gold and Silver Mining Act of 1868 added provisions that addressed exploration on private and Crown lands, and implemented a more comprehensive mineral royalty system. This was quickly succeeded by the Mining Act of 1869, which expanded the scope of provincial legislation to include regulations on the broader array of ore and mineral commodities discovered in Ontario around that time.
A major revision of the Mining Act in 1906 introduced several key features of the current act, including efficient processes to secure interests in mining claims through work requirements and a dispute resolution mechanism.
The Mining Act was periodically amended throughout the 20th century. Changes included enhancements to the authority of the Mining and Lands Commissioner; introduction of a domestic processing requirement following the First World War; and various exclusions and withdrawals of land pertaining
to resources such as timber, aggregates, hydro-electric generation and other purposes in the public interest.
Major amendments to the Mining Act in the early 1990s saw the addition of Part VII, the requirements for mine closure and reclamation. Further amendments in 2000 included requirements for Aboriginal consultation on closure plans.
In 2007, the government established the framework for Ontario’s emerging diamond industry by augmenting the Mining Act with the province’s first diamond regulations to enable the valuation of diamonds in Ontario, as well as the payment and administration of diamond royalties.
The “Good Samaritan” amendment to the Mining Act was also passed in 2007 to allow the private sector to conduct voluntary mine rehabilitation on certain Crown-held abandoned mine sites without exposure to undue liabilities.