OTTAWA — Big changes to Ontario’s Mining Act will prevent companies from looking for uranium and other resources on private land, and require consultation elsewhere from First Nations.
That makes Marilyn Crawford happy, mostly. She belongs to a group that opposed uranium exploration near her South Frontenac home, but she says there are still loopholes in the new rules. Some native groups think so too.
At the same time the mining industry is worried, believing exploration is about to become slower and more expensive. And one Conservative MPP predicts the industry will shun Ontario as the new rules drive delays and costs too high.
The source of this flurry is a century-old law that used to allow mining companies access to land where private owners own the surface but the Crown owns mineral rights under them. In the past few years a wave of exploration for uranium has stirred up resentment among residents of Lanark and Frontenac Counties, especially around Sharbot Lake.
Last week the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines issued a “modernization” of the Mining Act. Starting in April, it will oblige companies to consult with aboriginal groups who would be affected by their projects at an early stage in exploration. This requires providing detailed plans of what the exploration will involve. Some forms of early exploration activities will also require a permit from the ministry as of April 1, 2013.
As well, the ministry says mining companies can no longer stake claims on private land.
The ministry says the new rule book “recognizes Aboriginal and treaty rights, is more respectful of private landowners and minimizes the impact of mineral exploration and development on the environment. These new rules and tools will help provide clarity and certainty to industry, insure ongoing engagement by industry with affected Aboriginal communities and help build positive relationships with surface rights owners.”
At least one native group has rejected the changes. The Anishinabek Nation, which includes 39 communities in Ontario, says native peoples must “be involved in the process from the outset and that they be provided with the opportunity for free, informed consent and the ability to reject a development that may have an adverse impact on their territory.”
For the rest of this article, please go to the Ottawa Citizen website: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Ontario+mining+rules+eliminate+most+exploration+private+land/7364054/story.html