In modernizing the Mining Act, Ontario has the opportunity to strengthen environmental protection to ensure the long-term health, safety and prosperity of the province. In order to do so effectively, the Mining Act must explicitly provide for environmental protection, notice, environmental assessments, and substantive consultation. While the proposed changes to the Mining Act in Bill 173 take some steps towards these goals, they do not go far enough to protect vulnerable communities or ecosystems.
Lake Ontario Waterkeeper provides commentary on the proposed changes below, and sets out the rationale for the following recommendations:
The new Mining Act must ensure that no projects associated with mining, from exploration to remediation, are exempt from the provincial Environmental Assessment Act.
The modernized Mining Act must prohibit the staking of claims on ecologically sensitive lands.
Increased consultation with landowners and aboriginal people must be substantive. The “Permission” provision in section 204(3) should be struck from the Bill.
The Ontario Mining Act must apply to uranium mining because there is no constitutional basis to exclude uranium from the ambit of the Act.
The “Voluntary Rehabilitation” section of the Act must be changed to ensure that companies undertaking some rehabilitation activities are not exempt from environmental laws after the completion of rehabilitation, or in terms of unrelated activities on the contaminated site.
The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines should either develop a policy for voluntary posting to the Environmental Registry or seek an amendment to the Classiﬁcation of Proposals for Instruments to ensure that proper notice and comment opportunities are provided for rehabilitation proposals.
Read the Lake Ontario Waterkeeper's entire submission to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines here