An exciting new era for mineral development in Ontario may be at hand with the passage of Bill 173, the act that modernizes Ontario’s current Mining Act. If passed, it would be the result of one of the most extensive consultations undertaken by an Ontario government and will set the foundation for a business climate that promotes sustainable mineral development and community engagement.
From the onset of Mining Act modernization deliberations in August 2008, the hallmark of our effort has been extensive dialogue and collaboration with our stakeholders and Aboriginal communities and organizations. We went to great lengths to ensure that as many stakeholders and Aboriginal groups as possible expressed their points of view. Those consultations stirred a very healthy debate and encouraged the exchange of a lot of information. Most importantly, they fostered much greater understanding of everyone’s respective issues and concerns.
Ultimately, this resulted in draft legislation that has been hailed as modern, balanced and equitable. A first in Canadian mining legislation, our proposed Mining Act would recognize Aboriginal and treaty rights and provide a process for dispute resolution related to Aboriginal consultation. It would address issues related to surface rights versus mineral rights. It links mining development to the development of land use plans in Ontario’s Far North. It would also bring clarity and certainty for the mining industry.
If Bill 173 is passed, our consultations with stakeholders would continue as we proceed with developing the regulations that would support the new Mining Act. We are working together to shape legislation that would promote sustainable development in a way that respects the environment, communities and individuals.
In our view, the Mining Act must reflect changes in the mining industry and the expectations of society. Mining and societies are nothing if not dynamic.
Globalization, technological advances and stakeholder expectations are dictating a permanent state of redefinition and rising expectations for the mining sector in Ontario and around the world. As the industry is redefined, so too must be the legislation governing it.
The stakes for not moving with the times are simply too high. Mining is, and will continue to be, one of Ontario’ economic pillars. We are still Canada’s largest producer of non-fuel minerals, accounting for 24 per cent of the national total in 2008, with an approximate value of about $9.6 billion. We rank among the top 10 global producers of platinum, nickel and cobalt, and among the top 20 producers of gold, silver, copper and zinc. We have joined the select group of jurisdictions that produce diamonds with the opening of the De Beers Victor diamond mine near Attawapiskat.
The mining sector is a significant economic driver that employs 75,000 Ontarians directly and indirectly. While a global recession has diminished commodity prices and slowed mineral development activity, we believe that the long-term prospects for commodities remain very strong and that Ontario’s mineral industry will survive, thrive and prosper.
As nations around the world advance, the need for minerals will increase. Ontario will continue to be a global supplier of many different minerals. In our view, the question is not whether or not mining will be done in Ontario but how it will be done.
The updated Mining Act, if passed, would reflect the realities and expectations of Ontarians in the 21st century. By getting the Mining Act right, we are ensuring that Ontario remains one of the best places in the world for mineral exploration and mining investment.
Michael Gravelle is the Ontario Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry.