Canada: Lawyer says First Nations will fight Ontario government’s proposed mining changes

3 March 2023, 12.00am EST

Source: CBC News

MiningWatch Canada advocate wonders ‘what’s left to cut?’

Warren Schlote, CBC News

The Ontario government’s proposed changes to mining regulations are drawing concern among mining critics and advocates for First Nations.

Kate Kempton represents the northern Ontario First Nations of Attawapiskat, Ginoogaming, Constance Lake and Aroland. In 2021, Attawapiskat, Neskantaga and Fort Albany signed a moratorium on new developments in the Ring of Fire mineral deposit, though other First Nations have expressed support for developing the deposit.

Kempton said the First Nations “are not going to stand for this” and that the government’s actions will only lead to further confrontations.

“Doug Ford is basically setting himself and his government up for a bunch of injunctions and blockades. He’s paved the road for court action and possibly direct action as well,” Kempton said.

On Thursday, Mines Minister George Pirie introduced amendments to the Mining Act, meant to make the process of building new mines easier and faster for companies.

The amendments listed on the province’s Environmental Registry would change the rules around mine closure plans. Mining companies would only have to submit closure plans for parts of their mines that are being built at that time. 

MiningWatch Canada’s national co-lead, Jamie Kneen, said that’s in line with other jurisdictions, but it could weaken the closure planning process because private mines aren’t required to complete environmental assessments in Ontario.

Activist says regulations already weak

MiningWatch Canada’s national co-lead, Jamie Kneen, said privately owned mines in Ontario are already exempt from provincial environmental assessment rules. He said he was concerned that the government was continuing to pare back its regulations.

“What’s left to cut? What can be possibly speeded up more than it already is without just completely obliterating public engagement and consultation with Indigenous peoples?” he said.

Kneen said he wasn’t optimistic that public feedback would change the government’s proposals, citing its history on the Greenbelt and Highway 413.

He called the loosening of requirements for clean-up bonds — money set aside to rehabilitate mine sites — a “recipe for disaster,” potentially leaving the public to pay for mine clean-up.

However, the ministry said similar to closure planning, mines must have those bonds ready when the respective parts of the mine begin construction.

“The problem here is that we just can’t take the Ford government at its word for these things. If they say that they’re going to maintain environmental standards, well, they haven’t on other things, so why would we believe them on this one?” he said.

Read the full article here.


See also: “Accumulation by Dispossession” by the Global Extractive Industry: The Case of Canada

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