After being harshly criticized for doing little to advance Ontario’s mining sector, the province’s mines minister tried to give assurances Monday that his ministry hasn’t been sitting on its hands.
Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle said his department has earmarked $5 million so that junior companies can make headway on exploration projects. The money is part of a “renewed” provincial mineral development strategy that first surfaced in 2006.
Gravelle touted the renewed 10-point strategy as “a blueprint for how we will help the sector address the challenges of today and position it to grow and attract investment in the future.”
Lakehead University’s Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Mining and Exploration is to “partner” with the province to advance its mining strategy.
Some of the 10 points will likely sound familiar to industry watchers, including pledges to cut red tape and “enhance aboriginal voices and meaningful participation in economic development.”
Earlier this month, Ontario Auditor-General Bonnie Lysyk chastised Gravelle’s ministry for allowing the province to rank “ninth among Canadian provinces and territories in investment attractiveness in mineral exploration” and for having “no detailed plan or timeline for supporting the development of the (Ring of Fire) deposit.”
On Monday, the ministry said it would “reduce the impacts of exploration and mining and address climate change.”
In her report earlier this month, Lysyk said the government “doesn’t have a good handle on the province’s 4,400 abandoned mine sites.
“Only six per cent of the sites have been inspected in the last five years,” Lysyk’s report said.
The $5 million announced Monday for exploration projects is to be overseen by the Ontario Prospectors Association.
“The components of the strategy, when implemented, will provide greater certainty and preserve Ontario’s position as the No. 1 jurisdiction for mineral exploration in Canada,” Thunder Bay-based OPA executive-director Garry Clark said in a news release.
NDP mines critic MPP Mike Mantha said the renewed provincial strategy “merely states the obvious” while not addressing key areas such as high energy prices and a clear framework for land negotiations between mining companies and First Nations.
“The Ring of Fire is barely mentioned in the strategy,” said Mantha (Algoma-Manitoulin). “Again, they are announcing a plan to make a plan to implement a plan.”
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