Chiefs of Ontario calls for one-year moratorium on mining claims staking

29th January 2024 By: Creamer Media Reporter

Chiefs of Ontario calls for one-year moratorium on mining claims staking

The Chiefs of Ontario have called on the provincial government to impose a 365-day moratorium on the Mining Lands Administration System (MLAS) to stem the tide in mining claims staking.

Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare said in a statement that mining claim-staking had grown at a pace that far outstripped the ability of First Nations to respond to them, noting that the matter directly impacted on First Nations’ Constitionally-protected rights.

According to Hare, First Nations in Ontario have experienced an exponential rise in the number of mining claims being staked on their territory – some as high as 30%. These 2023 figures represent, the chiefs claim, the highest annual number of mining claims staked in Ontario over the last six years.

“Such extreme increases lead to an insurmountable administrative burden for First Nation communities responsible for reviewing and responding to the mining claims.

“A 365-day moratorium is necessary as it will give First Nations communities the time that is required to assess the impacts of the MLAS, the effects of the mine claims currently being staked, as well as develop a process whereby meaningful and fulsome engagement and consultation can be integrated into the MLAS processes,” said Hare.

In a letter sent in August 2022, Anishinabek Nation also requested that the province declare a moratorium on mining claims-staking. The Ministry of Mines later responded to the letter stating that a moratorium on mining was not being considered at the time as an appropriate way to resolve the concerns previously stated by Anishinabek Nation.

Under the current MLAS system, prospectors can easily stake a mining claim online, and are not required to engage or consult with First Nations – even if the area in which the claim is staked is within their territories. As a result, the area of land that has been staked is automatically removed from Treaty and Crown land that First Nations may have otherwise had access to add to reserve land, convert into parks, or is land that is currently undergoing land settlements via claims negotiations. This current system allows for the minimisation of First Nations consent and any requirements based on the duty to consult and accommodate by being conducted in a globally accessed virtual environment. The invisible virtual mining process in Ontario compromises and impacts the Spirit and Intent of all Treaties and unceded territories in Ontario.

The Ontario chiefs noted a recent Supreme Court decision made in the case of Gitxaala v. British Columbia, this is not only a concern for Ontario First Nations. The case is an important win because the court declared that British Columbia’s current online mineral claim system breaches the Crown’s duty to consult. The court gave the province 18 months to design a new system that incorporates consultation and, though it likely will be appealed, it sets an important precedent for First Nations in other provinces.

“We are aware that the stance on using lands for development and resource extraction is not homogenous across Ontario First Nations. This moratorium is not intended to, in any way, impede on those who are currently or wish to undertake activities that will bolster economic development in their territories.

“We call on the government to implement this moratorium as a means to ensure that the Crown in right of Ontario honour its Constitutional and Treaty based obligations to all First Nations in Ontario,” said Hare.