TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – A group of First Nations residing in the north of Ontario this week asked Ontario’s Minister of Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle to delay implementing new mining rules that came into effect on Monday, claiming that the new regulations had not gone through a proper consultation process.
The new mining regulations were part of a modernised Mining Act that was passed in 2009 to promote mineral exploration and development in a manner that recognised Aboriginal and treaty rights, was more respectful of private landowners and minimised the impact of mineral exploration and development on the environment.
The Anishinabek Nation, which represented 39 member communities and about 55 000 people in the mineral-rich north of the province, was calling for the establishment of a bilateral table on mining and a meeting with the Minister.
Grand council chief Patrick Madahbee has asked Minister Gravelle to postpone the mandatory implementation of the new mining regulations, saying the Anishinabek Nation was looking for a chance for its leadership to meet with their citizens to discuss concerns with regulations that “did not go through a proper consultation process”.
The Anishinabek Nation had concerns about the recognition of treaty rights, resource revenue sharing, environmental stewardship and the local capacity to permit First Nations to meet demands of the new regulations.
"These new Mining Act regulations will impact our inherent, treaty and Aboriginal rights directly," Madahbee said.
The Ministry said the province’s approach to Mining Act modernisation took into consideration a range of interests while supporting a competitive economic climate for Ontario’s minerals sector. The Ministry added the modernised Mining Act would help continue to ensure that Ontario remains one of the best places in the world for mineral exploration and mining investment.
In recent months, Canada's Aboriginal activists have stepped up demands for more control over mining and energy projects, and a greater share of benefits from resource development.
In March, two Canadian Aboriginal communities have filed a C$900-million lawsuit against a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, saying that more than a half century of iron-ore mining has disrupted their traditional way of life.
The Innu communities of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam and Matimekush-Lac John have asked a Quebec court for an injunction against the operations of Rio's Iron Ore Company of Canada unit in Quebec and Labrador, as well as an estimated C$900-million in damages.
In February, native protesters twice in two weeks blocked the winter access road to De Beers' Victor mine, in Northern Canada.
A grass-roots Aboriginal protest movement known as 'Idle No More' staged demonstrations and blocked roads and rail lines across Canada late last year and early this year, in part to call attention to the improverished living conditions of many Aboriginals, especially in remote communities.