Changes in Ontario’s century-old Mining Act that will mandate the filing of exploration plans and permits, Aboriginal consultation, and encourage voluntary mine rehabilitation of mine hazards will come into effect on Nov. 1 Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced.
“We’ve brought a 100-year-old piece of legislation into the 21st Century,” said Rick Bartolucci, Ontario’s Minister of Northern Development and Mines. “Through these regulations, as well as our ongoing work with industry and Aboriginal communities, we can all ensure Ontario continues to be a leading jurisdiction for mineral exploration investment for decades to come.”
The changes include voluntary submission of an exploration plan in order to undertake certain early exploration activities. Any surface rights owners must be notified of the planned exploration activities.
Among the changes, an exploration permit would now be required to take bulk samples of Crown minerals for testing purposes. The provincial government said it intended to modernize the way companies staked and explored their claims, to be more respectful of Aboriginal communities and private landowners.
To this end, new criteria would be implemented that could help determine sites that were of social, cultural, sacred or ceremonial significance to Aboriginal communities, in order to help protect those sites from claim staking.
“These changes will ensure Aboriginal communities are appropriately notified and consulted throughout critical points in the mining sequence, from early exploration to mine closure,” said Kathleen Wynn, minister of Aboriginal Affairs. “This will help industry and Aboriginal communities to build positive relationships and ensure respect for Aboriginal and treat rights as well as the protection of sites of Aboriginal cultural significance.”
A permit for some early exploration activities will also be required and surface rights owners must be notified when applying for an exploration permit.
Provisions to allow individuals or companies to apply to voluntarily rehabilitate an existing mine hazard that they did not create on Crown-held land without becoming liable for pre-existing environmental issues on the site will also be in effect.
Currently, prospectors must report on yearly exploration work on mining claims in order to earn assessment credits and keep claims in good standing. As of November 1, GPS geo-referencing data must accompany an application to record a ground-staked mining claim. This will only apply to ground-staked mining claims on lands that are unsurveyed. Aboriginal consultation and the costs of providing of GPS data for existing claims are eligible for an assessment credit. Prospectors will also be able to make monetary payments instead of reporting assessment work with some limitations.
Anyone wishing to apply for or renew an existing prospector's license will be required to complete an online Mining Act awareness program. All current licensees will have two years from November 1 to complete the program.