GREENSTONE — The Ontario government has withdrawn a large tract of land near Long Lake # 58 First Nation from prospecting and mining claim registration.
The order will remain in place indefinitely, subject to review.
On Dec. 15, 2022, the Ministry of Mines issued an order signed by Assistant Deputy Minister Afsana Qureshi, affecting 94,000 hectares or 940 square kilometres.
It withdraws "from prospecting, mining claim registration, sale and lease any lands, mining rights or surface rights that are the property of the Crown ... until reopened by the minister."
The order makes reference to Long Lake #58's assertion of an Aboriginal title claim in these areas.
It states that the decision will be reviewed within three years to ascertain whether it is appropriate to maintain the withdrawal in light of the status of efforts by Ontario, Canada and Long Lake #58 to resolve the land claim.
The ministry provided few details to TBnewswatch in a statement, saying only that the order was made in order to facilitate ongoing negotiations as the three parties work together on a solution.
Long Lake #58 Chief Judy Desmoulin could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.
The First Nation's claim is separate from an expansion of its boundary which was finalized in 2022, adding 1,700 hectares to its 260-hectare land base.
"The additional land does bring the hope of building a stronger and healthier community," Desmoulin said at the time.
One Geraldton-area prospector is questioning the rationale for the recent exploration freeze, saying it directly impacts his livelihood, yet he was not consulted or informed in advance before the order was issued last month.
Michael Malouf, who's associated with Quaternary Mining and Exploration Ltd. and Exploration and Hardrock Extension Inc., has previously criticized the government for its handling of an ongoing dispute with Ginoogaming First Nation — located near Long Lake # 58 First Nation — which has stopped his exploration activity in its traditional territory.
He asked the government for more information about the withdrawal decision and the title claim, but was told he had to file an Access to Information request.
Malouf said he's always believed "If you followed the rules of the Mining Act, did the work you were supposed to do and filed the reports, you had tenure to your land ... That has been removed. There is no longer any tenure."
He noted that there's currently "an epidemic of gold fever" in the Geraldton area, due to the $1.3 billion Greenstone Gold Mine joint venture.