Ontario Mining Association Seeks Clarification on Mining Act and Far North Act Legislation

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.

The Ontario Mining Association submitted its views on two important pieces of legislation today at hearings in Thunder Bay.  OMA President Chris Hodgson presented the Association´s report to the Legislature´s Standing Committee on General Government, which is reviewing both Bill 173, An Act to Amend the Mining Act, and Bill 191, An Act with respect to land use planning and protection of the Far North.  Joining Mr. Hodgson was John Blogg, OMA Secretary and Manager of Industrial Relations, along with Adele Faubert, Manager of Aboriginal Affairs at Goldcorp´s Musselwhite Mine, and Jerome Girard, Mill Superintendent at the Musselwhite Mine.

The OMA stuck to three main points on each piece of legislation.  “The OMA does have some concerns with Bill 173 and would like to seek clarification on some aspects of the proposed legislation, ensuring that there are no ambiguities impairing the ability of mining to continue to play the major role it does in the economic and social development of Ontario,” said Mr. Hodgson.  On the Mining Act, the OMA focused on the duty to consult, Notice of Material Changes concerning existing closure plans and consultation and the dispute resolution process. 

“A basic foundation of mining success in Ontario — the things that set us apart and give us an advantage over some other jurisdictions with significant mineral potential — is rule of law and certainty of title,” said Mr. Hodgson.  “For this reason, the Aboriginal consultation provisions in Bill 173 need to be clear, transparent and consistent with current case law, which states the government has the primary duty, with some exceptions, to consult with Aboriginal communities.”  The OMA also asked for greater clarity in mine closure plan consultation rules and the make-up of tribunals to handle disputes, which may arise.

The OMA is supportive of the government´s efforts to involve Aboriginal communities in the land use planning process but has concerns about the lack of economic targets in the bill, funding capacity for land use planning and review of land use plans.  “The bill itself, is strong on conservation targets, but nonexistent on development targets,” said Mr. Hodgson.  “If we are to respect the integrity of the Premier´s words, and ensure the wellbeing of Far North communities, development targets need to be included in the legislation.  Why not a target of 10 new mines in the next 10 years?”

“The Far North Act needs to make provisions for regular review of the land use plans — perhaps every five years.  New mineral discoveries, new science, the changing needs of Northern residents, technological changes and shifting circumstances may all trigger reviews of land use plans,” said Mr. Hodgson.  “As with our comments on the Mining Act, we would like to stress that the review process in this case also needs to be objective, fair and transparent.” 

The OMA, which supports the Government´s $40 million provision to make the Mining Act work, believes the Far North Act cannot achieve its goals without enhancing the capacity for land use planning in the Far North.  “The Government has allocated $40 million to implement the Mining Act and it will require much more — hundreds of millions of dollars — to achieve the goals set out in the Far North Act,” said Mr. Hodgson. 

“Sustained success in mining as part of Ontario´s economy requires the following — certainty of the rule of law and land title, land access for mineral exploration, investments in training, infrastructure and technology and regulatory efficiency and certainty,” added Mr. Hodgson.  “We believe that in developing the proposed legislation there is an opportunity to foster an environment that promotes fair and balanced development that benefits all Ontarians and ensures all of us a healthy and prosperous future.”

The Legislature´s Standing Committee on General Government continues its consultations on these two bills tomorrow August 12 in Chapleau and Thursday, August 13 in Timmins.  The Committee kicked off consultations last Thursday, August 6 in Toronto and was in Sioux Lookout yesterday, August 10.  The OMA will be providing a full written submission on the legislation before the September 4, 2009 deadline.  A copy of Mr. Hodgson´s presentation to the Legislature´s Standing Committee on General Government on August 11 is attached.