Jeff Green | Jan 13, 2005
Feature Article January 20, 2005
Feature article January 13, 2005LAND O' LAKES NewsWeb Home
Mining rights activists buoyed by meeting with provincial ministers
by Jeff Green
Representatives from the Bedford Mining Alert (BMA) and the Citizens Mining Action Group (CMAG) from Tay Valley Township met with Cabinet Ministers Rick Bartolucci (Mines and Northern Development) and Leona Dombrowsky (Environment) in Toronto in December.
It was an opportunity for John McKillop, the Bedford Mining Alerts President, to present a brief to the ministers dealing with three major concerns: the rights of property owners who dont own the mineral rights to their property; the environmental impacts of mining; and mineral extraction vs. other land use activities.
In a letter to the ministers that accompanied the brief, McKillop alluded to the broadening of scope that has taken place among Bedford Mining Alert members in the past few years when he wrote, It would be easy to call us NIMBYs [Not In My Backyard] and perhaps at the beginning we were, but knowledge is a powerful thing.
McKillop, like many others in the BMA first got involved when he found that prospectors from Graphite Mountain Inc. had staked his vacation property. Until then he did not know that he only owned rights to the surface of his land, and that the mining rights were open to prospecting. The initial shock of finding out that he did not have exclusive rights to enjoy his land certainly piqued McKillops interest in the Ontario Mining Act.
We are still very much concerned about our property and our region, but are also concerned about mining practices generally. Mining is by nature an invasive activity. If not carried out to strict standards of accountability, it can and has been harmful to people and to the environment, McKillop wrote to the ministers.
In the first section of the brief to the ministers, surface rights owners concerns were outlined. The brief acknowledges that an advisory committee to the Ministry of Mines and Northern Development has put forward proposals to reform section 32, the section of the mining act dealing with the rights of surface owners. These changes would require less intrusive staking, better notification, and clearer definitions of what is regarded as land improvements. However, it says We are concerned that this may be just window dressing. The brief makes reference to a decision made by the Mining Commissioner, working in Minister Bartoluccis department, in the case of Ron and Elva Price of Olden vs. Wollasco Inc. Even though Wollasco was found to have breached the Mining Act, Wollasco was given the option, apparently in perpetuity, to acquire the entire Price farm, not just the portion permitted to be staked, if Wollasco made a production decision. This demonstrates, according to the brief, then limitations of reforming section 32 of the mining act so long as mining commissioners have such sweeping powers, and a bias towards promoting mining exploration over the interests of surface owners.
[Ed. note: there have been new developments in the Price vs. Wollasco case. Through the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman, the Mining Commissioners decision is being revisited.]
Mining and the Environment: The Environmental impact of mining was discussed as well with Ministers Dombrowsky and Bartolucci. After outlining the budget cuts of the past 15 years in the three ministries that are charged with monitoring the environmental impacts of mining, members of the BMA and CMAG made reference to some expensive rehabilitation projects that have been left to Ontario taxpayers after mines were closed. Among a broad range of concerns, they concentrated on Eastern Ontario, which they described as an interconnected and vulnerable water system, where tourism and recreation predominate, and claimed that mining is a threat to Eastern Ontarios water. Their brief also expressed the concern that seepage is not being included in surface water monitoring by the Ministry of Mines.
Mining extraction as a preferred land use activity.
According to the BMA and CMAG, the Mining Act makes mining a preferred economic activity in Ontario, taking precedence over other land uses. They quote Minister Bartolucci himself, who wrote in a letter to a BMA member last winter January I would like to point out that mining exploration yields no overnight successes or quick wins. In fact, the likelihood of a claim becoming productive is 1 in 10,000. Developing a mine may take 10-20 years of careful exploration, of data analysis, planning and financing.
But, the brief points out, It only takes one claim to discourage recreational development for a 10 kilometre radius surrounding that claim. The brief went to make specific recommendations about changes to the Mining Act and the rules various government department
When contacted this week, John McKillop said he felt privileged to be able to meet with the ministers, and that he found them both very receptive to our submission. Being able to meet face to face puts a human contact to the communication. The BMA and the CMAG are involved in the formation of an umbrella group of 30 other groups concerned about the future of mining in the province, and they will be seeking to come up with some vehicle where a number of Ministries and stakeholder groups can take part in a plan to give different regions of Ontario more say, rather than having one set of regulations that put mining ahead of other potential land uses throughout the Province.
John McKillop takes the view that the Liberal government is still a new government, and hopes that it is open to addressing some of the concerns that were brought forward last month in Toronto. (For more information visit http://www.bedfordminingalert.ca/)