New mining rules coming up for Canada’s northern Ontario already igniting debate

A new set of regulations for prospectors and mining companies working claims in Northern Ontario, Canada, which goes into effect Nov. 1, is already stirring some controversy as First Nations claim still allows claims anywhere companies want.

The updated mining act makes changes to early exploration requisites to minimize environmental impact. It also includes some new guidelines about consulting with First Nations, and a strategy to improved protection of sites deemed as of Aboriginal cultural significance.

But First Nations leaders dispute the new rules don't go far enough.

"It's very clear that … it didn't go deep enough to look at the complexities that have to do with the duty to consult,” told CBC Lake Huron Regional Chief, Isadore Day.

“We’ve brought a 100-year-old piece of legislation into the 21st century,” Northern Development and Mines Minister Rick Bartolucci said in a news release.

“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 directions, established in close partnership with industry stakeholders and aboriginal representatives, will help ensure that mineral exploration and development in Ontario continues to occur in a balanced, socially and environmentally responsible manner, the ministry said.

But the upcoming mining act doesn’t look into Ontario's most polemic point: the so-called free entry system. This allows prospectors to stake mineral claims on land, even when they don't own the surface rights.

“As far as [the free entry system] is in place, there will be conflicts,” told CBC the Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.

There are over 600 active mineral exploration projects in the province. 
Ontario accounts for over 25 per cent of mining jobs in Canada, with mining creating over 27,500 direct and 50,000 indirect jobs in the province.

Image of  Totem poles in Thunderbird Park of Victoria, Canada.