A "new" Ontario Mining Act1comes
into full force April 1, 2013.
The last time the Mining Act had a major overhaul,
famed American gangster Bugsy Siegel was a newborn and Sir Wilfrid
Laurier was Prime Minister of Canada. The year was 1906.
The amendments are being sold by the province as a
"modernization." It is too early to know whether that is
just a euphemism, but one thing is certain -- the changes are going
to demand much more work, planning and spending on the part of
mining companies in Ontario.
As indicated above, the Ontario Mining Act was largely
a static statute for all of the 20th century. During that period,
the mining business in the province flourished under the "free
entry" system of mineral allocation (under which staking a
claim was relatively direct, fast and cheap). For most of those
years, that meant that neither the Ontario government nor mining
companies adequately consulted with stakeholders (if at all),
including the province's First Nations groups.
In 2004, however, the Supreme Court of Canada issued a decision
that made it clear that the Ontario government has a duty to
consult with, and accommodate, Aboriginal groups in Ontario.
Then, in 2009, the present amendments to the Mining
Act were passed by the Ontario legislature. Those amendments
took effect in November, 2012, and will be implemented fully by
April 1, 2013.
Some critics believe that "modernization" of
the Mining Act is nothing more than an attempt by the
provincial government to download time- and money-consuming
consultation and accommodation responsibilities onto mining
companies, prospectors, and First Nations groups.
The critics also contend that this downloading carries with it a
risk of destroying the industry in Ontario because new front-end
exploration and development costs that the amendments mandate will
drive miners to other jurisdictions where it is cheaper to do
For its part, the Ontario government has defended the changes as
an attempt to 'promote mineral exploration in a manner that
recognizes Aboriginal and treaty rights, is more respectful of
private landowners and minimizes the impact of mineral exploration
and development on the environment.2
What Will Modernization Mean for You?
Here are some highlights:
Prospectors' Mining Act Awareness Program:
If you wish to apply for, or renew, a prospector's
licence, you must first complete the Awareness Program, which
includes basic information on staking claims, Aboriginal
consultation and the amendments to the Mining Act. The program
can be accessed online and is intended to "raise awareness of
the importance of considering other users of public land".
Sites of Aboriginal Cultural Significance:
Sites of cultural significance for Aboriginal communities may be
withdrawn (on application), so that mining claims cannot be staked
Exploration Plans: Exploration plans for early
exploration activities, valid for two years and mandatory as of
April 1, 2013, are to be submitted in advance and any
surface-rights owners are to be notified. Additionally, any
Aboriginal groups potentially affected by exploration plan
activities will be notified by the Ministry of Northern Development
and Mines (MNDM) and will have an opportunity to provide feedback.
Exploration plans are expected to be expensive because the services
of geotechnical experts, accountants, lawyers other specialists
will be needed.
Exploration Permits: Mining companies
will be required to obtain permits in advance of certain
activities (e.g. drilling with equipment heavier than 150
kilograms). The permits, valid for three years, are mandatory as of
April 1, 2013. Permit applications will be subject to approval by
the MNDM and will require consultation with Aboriginal groups. The
target turnaround time for issuing the permits is 50 days, but that
can be extended if further consultation is required.
Closure Plans: Aboriginal consultation is now
required prior to the submission of a certified closure plan or
1 R.S.O. 1990, c.M14.
2 "Ontario's ModernizedMining
Act, New Regulations: What you need to know",
online: Ministry of Northern Development and Mines
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