A harsh critique of the effectiveness of Ontario’s mines and mineral program by provincial auditor general Bonnie Lysyk was greeted with enthusiasm by the minister of Northern Development and Mines.
“I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m grateful for her recommendations,” said Michael Gravelle.
Gravelle expressed surprise that Lysyk’s annual report could be viewed as a scathing review of his ministry that appears to have shortfalls in encouraging mining investment, has disengaged in First Nation-industry consultation, shown no evidence of advancing the Ring of Fire, and lacks the resources and technical expertise to oversee mine closure plans and inspect abandoned mines.
“It’s funny I just don’t read it that way. I do not interpret it that way. When I look at the recommendations regarding abandoned mines, regarding our closure plans, they are all things that we take very seriously regardless.”
Gravelle said all of the issues raised in the report are “total priorities for us, and in that regard her recommendations strengthen our operations, our direction, and our goals. That’s why I’m pleased.”
Many of those issues, he said, will be addressed shortly when the government rolls out its new mineral development strategy, last updated in 2006. That could come as early as Dec. 11 when Gravelle attends a Northern Ontario Heritage Fund board meeting in Sudbury, but he refused to confirm that and dropped no hints on the contents of the strategy.
“The bottom line is we are more than listening to what the auditor general has to say and are taking it very seriously.”
In her report, Lysyk wrote five years after the creation of a 19-member Ring of Fire Secretariat, there is no evidence of a “detailed plan or timeline for developing the region,” noting the government-created entity has constantly missed development milestones established by the province.
A Ring of Fire Development Corporation, established in 2014, remains non-operational with a board of directors consisting of five senior bureaucrats that has not engaged industry, First Nation leadership, or the federal government.
Gravelle staunchly defended the Secretariat and the development corporation saying he’s “very proud” and “grateful” for their work in building partnerships and overseeing the technical studies on the transportation infrastructure.
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