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Indigenous consultation, environmental safeguards lacking in mining bill, say NDP

Lack of Indigenous consent will hamper new mine development, according to Northern MPPs
NDP Opposition Critics Sol Mamakwa and Jamie West want 'meaningful' consultation with First Nations government bill on faster approvals for new mines (Len Gillis/ photo)

Ontario MPPs Jamie West of Sudbury and Sol Mamakwa of Kiiwetinoong want “more robust guidelines on free and informed prior consent and a framework for consultation” with Indigenous people on the proposed changes to Ontario’s Mining Act.

In a news release, the two Northern Ontario MPPs said the NDP said responsible mining can contribute to sustainable development, can create jobs and benefit communities, but environmental protection and Indigenous rights must be priorities.

West and Mamakwa are the NDP Opposition critics for Northern Development, Indigenous and Treaty Relations and Labour.

Bill 71, the Building More Mines Act, passed second reading in early March and is at the committee stage to receive amendments. Mines Minister George Pirie said last month that the legislation could pass third and final reading sometime this month.

The provincial Standing Committee on the Interior took the bill on the road to public hearings in Timmins and Sudbury before the Easter long weekend.

The Ford government wants to fast-track permitting and approvals timelines to put new mines into production quicker and expedite the process for mining companies to revisit decommissioned mine sites to find new mineral deposits or recycle waste rock to extract valuable minerals previously left behind on surface.

Indigenous leaders from the Matawa First Nations and the Chiefs of Ontario have condemned the provincial government’s approach of ‘advising’ them of the upcoming amendments to the Mining Act just before it was introduced in the Ontario Legislature.

Stemming from their travels across the North, Mamakwa and West say Indigenous people want “meaningful consultation” on proposed developments that would impact their traditional lands.

They also mention in the release that both First Nation leaders and mining industry representatives say the Ontario government’s “lack of a framework to lead consultations is the most significant barrier to projects going forward.”

"We have heard directly from First Nations and rights holders about the devastating impacts of mining activities on our lands and waters,” said Mamakwa.  “The government must establish a framework for consultation that includes all impacted First Nations and communities to ensure their meaningful consent in decision-making processes."

"These amendments are a crucial opportunity to ensure that First Nations rights and voices are respected and upheld in mining activities," said West.

"Free and informed prior consent is a fundamental principle of reconciliation, and it must be central to any changes in the Mining Act."

West, the MPP for Sudbury, a historic mining camp, voted for Bill 71 at first and second reading, but wants amendments made to the legislation.

Both West and Mamakwa express concern that mine site rehabilitation standards will lowered, according to the language in Bill 71.

In the release, they “seek to strike out the lower requirement for rehabilitation to be ‘comparable to the original state and replace it with the original wording of ‘improved.'"  This motion, they said, continues with existing provisions in the Mining Act.

 If their amendments on adequate consultation and these environmental safeguards are not included, Mamakwa and West said they will not support the bill.