Mining changes bring good news for cottagers

Guest post by Liann Bobechko, Senior Associate Editor.

Mining is in the news this week, as the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada hosted their annual mining industry convention in Toronto March 4-7.

Mining has been on our minds too, since Penny came back with tales from the The Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations AGM this past weekend, where she heard Stephen DeVos, Manager of Exploration & Development, Ministry of Northern Development and Mines discussing changes to the Ontario Mining Act that affect cottagers (in a good way!).

There were a number of issues with the old Mining Act that were affecting cottagers, some of whom only owned surface rights (with the Crown holding the mining rights). The changes are an effort to better protect them from having their properties staked and explored without notification.

In addition, cottagers have expressed concern that exploration activities have damaged Crown lands used for tourism and recreation, that exploration and mining activities have been exempt from environmental assessments, that municipalities and official plans have lacked control over developments (including mining) on Crown lands within their boundaries, and that they felt there was insufficient public input and appeal process for decisions made by the ministry.

FOCA has been working for almost a decade to change mining regulations and in October 2009, Bill 173, An Act to Amend the Mining Act was passed by the province, and is being implemented in stages. No one want to wade through legislation on a Friday, though, so here’s your cheat sheet on what you need to know.

Parts of the amended act already in effect:

1. Private properties in Southern Ontario (south of the French River) which hold only surface rights (with mining rights remaining with the Crown) are now not available for mining claim staking. Unfortunately, if the land had a pre-existing stake, that claim still stands, unless it is allowed to expire.—As of 2009

2. In Northern Ontario, private properties with no existing claims or leases can apply to the ministry to have Crown mining rights on their land withdrawn from staking to prevent claim staking and exploration on their land.—Effective January 1, 2011

3. Property owners may apply for exemption from Mining Land Tax, and waiving of tax arrears in some cases, as when the land is not being used for mining.—Effective January 1, 2011

4. A paper staking system is being introduced for Southern Ontario, and by 2013 will be moving towards online staking for the whole province.—Effective April 4, 2011

5. Notification to surface rights owners when a mining claim has been staked on their property.—Effective April 4, 2011

Further, it is expected that within the next month, the ministry will announce further regulations that are expected to provide better transparency and a more regulated process, bringing in changes to how landowners are notified of staking, exploration, and mining activities, and introducing better oversight on the people undertaking this work. This will be done through:

–       Exploration Plans, detailing less intrusive explorations and available as public documents

–       Exploration Permits, which will cover exploration using mechanization or explosives. The regulation will likely be brought in through an Environmental Bill of Rights posting with an opportunity for consultation with the public, First Nations and Metis groups, and surface rights holders.

Congratulations to FOCA for all their work with the ministry to update the legislation.

To read more, visit the FOCA mining update page.