TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – Northern Ontario’s junior exploration and mining sector is facing challenging times and not just because of the current market turbulence. New amendments to the province’s Mining Act introduced on a voluntary basis in November 2012 became mandatory on April 1. The impact has left some companies reeling.
Under the new rules, those wishing to prospect and explore must now submit detailed plans to Ontario’s Ministry of Northern Development and Mines before work can start. Companies must also consult with affected landowners, surface-rights holders and, importantly, local First Nations communities.
Processing submissions and issuing permits should take between 30 days and 50 days, although the government reserves the right to extend the timeframe if additional planning or consultation is deemed necessary.
The resultant flurry of permit applications and consultation requests with First Nations bands have left many across the spectrum struggling to fulfil their tasks, the Toronto Star reported on April 12. Critically, those companies waiting for permits have suddenly found themselves in limbo; they are legally obliged to halt work until approval is given.
“Everything stopped April 1. The drilling company I’m involved with, Cyr Drilling, has 22 drill rigs and the two that were active in northern Ontario had to shut down,” Aurcrest’s president, CEO and director Ian Brodie-Brown, who has extensive industry experience working alongside First Nations partners, told Mining Weekly Online.
“I recently met with a company we’d engaged to undertake an airborne geophysics program and had to apologise; I had to explain that we couldn’t raise money and progress with the campaign until the permit comes through. I’ve also applied for 6 000 m of drilling and again, I can’t progress until I have a permit,” he said.
The goal to bolster First Nations’ rights by amending the Mining Act was a step in the right direction but one that has been poorly implemented, Brodie-Brown argued. The confusion has also caused misplaced anger. “Many people are confused and angry, and they’re often blaming the wrong people – the First Nations.”
The onus should have been on fostering closer business co-operation, Brodie-Brown said, adding that the model built up between Cyr Drilling, Aurcrest, and First Nations communities may offer a more suitable and productive alternative to the current situation.
Brodie-Brown’s team started exploring northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire a few years ago, he explained. “We made a small discovery and wanted to further our presence in the area. We also knew the Mining Act would be amended and that the changes would concern the duty to consult.”
“So I went to meet the local native band, the Webequie. During my discussions, I asked what their local unemployment rate was. The reply was staggering: 95%. It’s a statistic that I found deeply disturbing and it convinced me to return with five business opportunities,” he said.
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