| Jul 26, 2007


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Feature Article - July 26, 2007

Candidates express broad agreement over mining issues

by Jeff Green

The Liberal, Conservative, and NDP candidates for the upcoming provincial election in the Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington riding participated in a forum sponsored by the Bedford Mining Alert (BMA) on July 21 at the Bedford Hall.

The Green Party, which has yet to select a provincial candidate, sent their federal candidate, Chris Walker.

Prior to the meeting, the Bedford Mining Alert had provided each of the candidates with background information about issues related to prospecting on private lands, and the candidates answered a series of questions from BMA member Justin Connidis

Lambert_sets_record

The four candidates all agreed on a major issue that has been championed by the Bedford Mining Alert for years - they favoured the uniting of surface and subsurface rights, at least in Eastern Ontario.

Throughout Ontario, a small percentage of landowners do not own the subsurface rights to their property, and these properties are available for staking by prospectors. Prospectors are exempt from normal trespass laws in pursuing their interests on these lands, and they are allowed to clear brush, cut trees, and do trenching on the properties without the consent of the landowners.

Ian Wilson, the Liberal candidate, pointed to proposed legislation that has just been posted for review, legislation that would see changes to how the Mining Act is implemented in the future. (see “A way forward or half a loaf?”) The changes do not include uniting surface and subsurface rights, however. Wilson was willing to go further, “I do support uniting surface and subsurface rights in Eastern Ontario,” he said.

Although Randy Hillier said, “Surface and subsurface rights must be united”, he also posed the issue against the context of the broader agenda of property rights, which he champions.

Chris Walker, from the Green Party, posed the issue in terms of sustainable growth, seeing the drive to extract resources as a symptom of an economy that is causing a host of environmental problems.

He also pointed out that he has researched the Conservative party policy on the Mining Act, and reported that he was told there are no plans to change the mining act.

“That could change,” Randy Hiller responded.

“The key issue is not uniting surface and subsurface rights, which I do support” said Ross Sutherland from the NDP, “it is broader than that. There should also be more controls on exploration on Crown lands, and Natives need to be consulted when their lands are being affected.”

Before the discussion concerning surface and sub-surface rights got underway, Frank Morrison and John Kittle made presentations. Frank Morrison told the kind of story that is familiar to Bedford Mining Alert members: that of finding his land disturbed and stakes in the ground, and through research realising that prospectors have extensive rights on his land.

In his case, however, it was not a graphite or wollastonite deposit that is being explored, as is common on Bedford. Morrison lives in North Frontenac Township, and the company that has staked his property is Frontenac Ventures Corporation.

John Kittle spoke specifically about uranium and the consequences of uranium mining and exploration.

The candidates were not asked directly about their response to the uranium exploration in North and Central Frontenac until the tail end of the meeting, when the public had their chance to ask questions.

Norm Guntensperger asked them if they support the activities of the Algonquin protesters who have occupied the site where Frontenac Ventures had been located.

Both Randy Hiller and Ian Wilson said they do not support the Algonquins, and Chris Walker and Ross Sutherland said they did.

However, all four candidates said they support a moratorium on uranium exploration in the case.

Although they oppose the occupation, both Ian Wilson and Randy Hiller said they did not favour a heavy-handed approach to the occupation by police or government officials.

“Confrontation does not serve anyone’s interest,” Wilson said.

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