Ending Ontario’s Mining Act misery

News Release from Ecojustice:

Toronto, Nov 5, 2008 – Two major environmental groups released a legal report today
highlighting serious flaws in Ontario’s antiquated Mining Act that has
lead to more than a century of conflict between mining companies, the
public and Aboriginal peoples. Prepared by the Canadian Institute for
Environmental Law and Policy (CIELAP) and Ecojustice (formerly Sierra
Legal Defence Fund), the report presents the Ontario government with a
clear framework for updating the law and revamping contentious elements
of the law.

“Today we are presenting remedies that will end a century of
needless conflict and finally bring Ontario’s Mining Act into the 21st
century,” said Justin Duncan, lawyer with Ecojustice (formerly Sierra
Legal Defence Fund).

The report presents a series of legislative reforms designed to fix
the century old law’s controversial free-entry system, which allows
prospectors to claim rights to minerals under private property, public
lands and traditional First Nations’ territory without any need for
prior consent, permit or environmental assessment.

“If it hadn’t literally happened in my own backyard, I would not
have believed prospectors could stake claims on your property without
any warning or consultation,” said Marilyn Crawford, who had a claim
staked on her property near Ottawa. “The report prepared by Ecojustice
and CIELAP offers sensible solutions to balance the needs of industry,
landowners and the environment.”

The report also highlights legal loopholes that have put taxpayers
on the hook for an estimated half a billion dollars to clean up
abandoned mine sites.

“The Mining Act’s weak financial requirements have meant that some
mining companies have avoided paying clean-up costs when the minerals
were gone, leaving Ontario taxpayers with the tab,” said Maureen
Carter-Whitney, Research Director at CIELAP. “This is bad for business,
bad for the health of our communities and is an unnecessary burden on
taxpayers. Simply put: polluters must pay.”

Ontario’s Mining Act was first passed into law in 1873. In 1906 the
government of the day gutted key elements that controlled access to
lands and established a free-entry model, a mining-friendly system
where company rights are paramount. For the next century, this
free-entry system has stoked the fires of controversy, as mining
companies have clashed with the interests of Aboriginal peoples,
landowners and the public without due regard to environmental impacts.

Encouragingly, Ontario’s Premier has pledged to reform the Mining
Act to alleviate continued land-use conflicts and to update the law to
reflect modern-day values associated with how Ontario’s public lands
are managed.

The report highlights three principal areas that must be addressed
to remedy the mining Act: (1) requiring consent from landowners and
First Nations; (2) implementation of land-use planning to determine
where mining ought to be permitted; and (3) ensuring all projects face
the scrutiny of environmental assessment.

For more information, please download the report, or contact:

Maureen Carter-Whitney, Research Director, CIELAP, (416) 923-3529 ext 22
Justin Duncan, Staff Lawyer, Ecojustice, (416) 368-7533 ext 22
Samuel McKay, Councillor, Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, cell (807) 629-7266
Marilyn Crawford, (613) 273-4511
Anna Baggio, CPAWS-Wildlands League, (416) 971-9453, ext.47
Ramsey Hart, MiningWatch Canada, cell (613) 614-9937
Jen Baker, Ontario Nature, (416) 444-8419, ext. 224

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