Commentary: Surveying the landscape of Ontario’s new mining regime – by Madeleine J.M. Donahue and Jean Piette (Northern Miner – September 27, 2013)

The Northern Miner, first published in 1915, during the Cobalt Silver Rush, is considered Canada’s leading authority on the mining industry. 

In Ontario, the new and amended regulations under the Mining Act described in our legal update in September 2012 have since come into force, and Ontario has developed four policies relating to Aboriginal consultation that further clarify the government’s expectations. Junior exploration companies have already experienced the effects and

challenges of this new regime more significantly than majors or companies with advanced exploration projects.

This is a transition period for Ontario’s regulatory regime — one that requires patience, goodwill, education and the ongoing co-operation of all parties if the reforms are to achieve the positive results the government is hoping for. These include greater clarity, less confrontation, enhanced respect for existing Aboriginal and treaty rights, protection of sites of Aboriginal cultural significance and improved prosperity for First Nations communities.

Let’s examine the most important aspects of the new regime:

Mining Act Awareness Program: Effective Nov. 1, 2012, General Regulation 45/11 requires anyone wishing to apply for or renew a prospector’s licence to complete a free, on-line prospector’s awareness program within 60 days of applying. Additionally, current licensees have until Nov. 1, 2014, to complete the program. The program educates prospectors on the recent changes to the Mining Act and regulations.

Sites of Aboriginal Cultural Significance: Effective Nov. 1, 2012, First Nations communities may apply to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) to have sites of Aboriginal cultural significance withdrawn so that lands, mining rights or surface rights that are Crown property cannot be staked, prospected, sold or leased. The

threshold size for such protection is 25 hectares or less if certain criteria are met. This is provided for under the Mining Act and General Regulation 45/11. The MNDM will consider whether there are other means to address a community’s concerns, including terms and conditions in exploration permits. Mineral claims holders are entitled to receive notice of a proposal to withdraw or restrict surface rights and to make representations to the MNDM.

Exploration Plans and Exploration Permits: Effective April 1, 2013, and pursuant to Regulation 308/12, persons proposing to undertake certain low-impact, early exploration activities must submit an exploration plan to the MNDM before the activities are undertaken, although the plan is not approved by the MNDM, only circulated.

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