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Ontario Nature calls on McGuinty government to reform outdated Ontario Mining Act

Tuesday, September 30th 2008 1:06:17pm

Ontario’s Mining Act full of holes!

Now is the time to participate in the consultation process and help shape the outdated Ontario Mining Act

(Toronto, September 30, 2008) Ontario Nature, a leading conservation and habitat protection organization, is calling on the Province to address the social and environmental holes in Ontario’s archaic Mining Act.  The Ontario government is now in the process of revising the 116-year-old legislation and is giving the public the opportunity to comment through the Environmental Registry.

Reviewing one of the province’s oldest pieces of legislation is long overdue. Despite the massive environmental and health impacts of mining operations, neither mineral exploration nor mine development are subject to full environmental assessments.

“Under the current Mining Act, the Ontario government is supporting an industry that impacts the environment on a massive scale,” says Jennifer Baker, Ontario Nature’s Boreal Outreach Coordinator.  “We need new policy that offers a comprehensive assessment of all the environmental and social values.”

A big concern about the Mining Act is its “free entry” system, which allows prospectors to search for minerals almost anywhere in the province. This means that the mining industry has full access to most of the province’s land base, both public and private, without consulting property owners or the public and without regard for First Nation treaty rights.
Each stage of the mining process can be environmentally devastating. Exploration requires drilling, blasting and tree clearing; infrastructure such as roads and transmission lines disrupt sensitive habitat; mining operations generate waste rock and tailings; waste water is produced and chemicals are discharged into the air and nearby bodies of water.  At a single mining operation near Red Lake, in northwestern Ontario, 20,000 tonnes of underground arsenic trioxide is seeping into the surrounding groundwater.

While mining generates considerable economic activity, the massive reclamation costs usually fall on the taxpayer. Nearly 6,000 abandoned mine sites are scattered across Ontario, of which approximately 4,000 are potentially hazardous. The estimated cost to clean up these sites is $500 million.  

Reform of Ontario’s Mining Act must accomplish the following objectives:

• Ensure that comprehensive land use planning occurs before mining activities are allowed to proceed, so that the benefits of mining versus other land uses can be taken into consideration and inform comprehensive land use planning decision-making;
• Require environmental assessments to cover each stage of the mining process (prospecting, exploration, operations, reclamation);
• Enshrine requirements for First Nations’ consent;  
• Provide increased rights for landowners to address issues with the free entry system;
• Require full funding for clean up and reclamation costs.

The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) is accepting comments on a discussion paper entitled Modernizing Ontario’s Mining Act until October 15, 2008.

For more information, please contact:

Jennifer Baker, Boreal Outreach Coordinator, Ontario Nature, (416) 444-8419 ext. 224; 905 524-3339.
Victoria Foote, Director of Communications, Ontario Nature, (416) 444-8419 ext. 238; 647 290-9384 (cell)

Ontario Nature
is a not-for profit that works to protect and restore natural habitats through research, education and conservation. It connects thousands of individuals and communities with nature through various conservation groups across the province (charitable registration #10737 8952 RR0001). For more information, visit www.ontarionature.org.