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Updates to the Mining Act look to boost mining activity in the north


Ontario’s minister of mines wants to mine the region’s critical minerals more quickly by making it easier to approve new projects.

“We need the critical minerals out of the ground in northern Ontario,” said Provincial Mines Minister George Pirie.

Officials say northern Ontario has the potential to be a hot bed for technological development due to its abundance of high-tech minerals being sought throughout the world.

The northwest and the Timmins-area have become desired areas for exploration to locate lithium, nickel, platinum group metals and other raw materials that international automakers and digital companies want secured in making the transition to zero-carbon technologies. This is in addition to established mines in the Sudbury-area and the northeast.

The provincial government has recognized the manufacturing opportunity the northern mineral supply can create and Pirie has tabled a bill to update Ontario’s Mining Act to make it more industry-friendly, particularly when it comes to faster permitting times to put new mines into production.

Pirie said some aspects are too time-consuming and there is a current demand for the wealth of minerals found in northern Ontario.

“It shouldn’t take 15 years to open a mine. This process is too time consuming and costly, leading to project delays and lost opportunities for Ontario’s mineral exploration and mining sector,” he said, in a news release Thursday.

He said his bill will change the Mining Act to give him more decision-making power over explorations and mine rehabilitation, with the largest change being the loosening of the requirement to file a full plan for the mine’s closure beforehand – instead deferring it to later stages.

Pirie said this bill won’t affect the level of care for environmental safety or Indigenous relations.

However, some critics are not convinced.

“Undoing those safeguards and making the process more streamlined and less accountable, is really just, I think, a recipe for disaster,” said Mining Watch Canada’s Jamie Kneen.

He and other critics pointed out that most mines don’t need to assess their impacts on the environment and public health — and that the bill can only cause more harm in favour of economic gain.

The critics who spoke with CTV News said the Ford government has been stripping back environmental protection laws and neglecting public consultations.

Kate Kempton is an Indigenous rights lawyer and said this legislation will create a road that is going to lead to injunctions, blockades and other challenges.

“Ford is proposing to strip the closure plan approval process and First Nations engagement in it to a bare minimum, which was — it’s basically taking of the last thread of protection that we have,” said Kempton.

“This (Pirie’s reassurances of continued environmental safety and Indigenous consultations) is coming from a government that has shown no consistent respect for either of those things, so it’s really hard to take that seriously,” said Kneen.

Bill 71, titled the ‘Building More Mines Act, 2023’ was introduced Thursday to the legislature.

“We need to get building. That’s why our government is introducing changes to the Mining Act to help attract more investment and secure the critical minerals that support the made-in-Ontario supply chain for new technologies like batteries and electric vehicles,” said Pirie, in the release.

Companies already established in the northern mining industry are welcoming the changes.

"Ontario has a proud history of exploration, mining and processing, which has generated socio-economic benefits for multiple generations in communities throughout the province. Vale welcomes the Ontario government’s review and modernization of the Mining Act,” said Alfredo Santana, COO of Vale Base Metals’ North Atlantic operations, in the government news release.

"Glencore is committed to responsibly source the commodities that advance everyday life and is very encouraged to see this modernization of Ontario’s Mining Act and the government’s commitment to critical minerals development in the province,” said Peter Xavier, VP of Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations, in the same release.

“The improvement of processes within the Ministry of Mines will strengthen our Ontario operations and facilitate their expansion."

The provincial government is looking to compete in the global market for critical minerals, particularly with China, Russia and Congo, but many critics feel if passed, this bill will only do more harm at home.

The bill’s second reading is scheduled for next week, followed by a consultation and engagement process expected to extend well into the summer before the proposed changes would be made permanent.

The package of amendments is posted on the Environmental Registry of Ontario, here and will be open for public comment until April 16.

With files from CTV News Timmins video journalist Sergio Arangio Top Stories

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