By Michael Lynch
A recent decision by the Ontario minister of Northern Development and Mines has angered mineral explorers.
Dan Newman told the Ontario Prospectors Association (OPA) board of directors in March “a political decision” had been made that would prevent new exploration on the 378 Ontario Living Legacy (OLL) sites.
OPA directors were told that mining activity will be allowed to continue on existing mining lands within the OLL sites, but not on sites that have been identified as having significant mineral potential.
“This is a serious betrayal of assurances,” says Garry Clark, OPA executive director.
Two of Newman’s predecessors had assured mineral explorers and the communities of Northern Ontario that exploration would not be banned as a result of Ontario Living Legacy, Clark says.
The minister asked to meet with the OPA board when they were attending the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention in Toronto.
“We thought we were there to discuss what was needed to keep Ontario the No.1 place in the country, if not the world, to explore,” says Clark.
A Fraser Institute survey of international mining executives has Ontario tied with Quebec for the highest ranking on overall investment attractiveness.
Clark received a follow-up letter signed by Newman and John Snobelen, minister of Natural Resources, which stated: “We understand the general consensus among the stakeholders is that the concept of ‘half parks’ and the uncertainty about where and how mineral activity can take place is untenable.
“The government will consider all mitigation options and solutions, including boundary adjustments if jointly proposed by the OPA and the Partnership for Public Lands (an umbrella association of environmental groups).”
“There’s no guarantee we will be able to mine on existing claims,” says Roger Poulin, president of the Sudbury Prospectors Association.
"The minister (Newman) didn’t do his job of protecting the prospecting community,” Poulin says. “Many have lost a lot of money.”
Hail Newsome, senior manager of the Ontario Geological Survey, says the protected sites are based on floral and fauna features. The idea of Living Legacy was to identify sites representative of natural heritage features.
Before Living Legacy came into place six per cent of the province was already protected from mining activity, Newsome says. This has now increased to 12 per cent.
“There is only a handful of the 378 sites that have significant mineral potential,” Newsome says.
“This reversal of policy will adversely affect a number of prospectors and junior mining companies with claims west of Timmins,” says Andrew Tims, president of the Porcupine Prospectors and Developers Assoc. (PPDA).
A PPDA news release, entitled Living Legacy Process Flawed and Dangerous explains the concerns of Timmins area mineral explorers.
“Two of the six OLL sites proposed by the MNR for the Porcupine area lie along the general trend of the Destor Pocupine Fault Zone (DPFZ). Both sites traverse the DPFZ, which during the last 90 years produced 60 million ounces of gold from the Ontario-Quebec border to Timmins,” the release states.
The release also states that “in present day dollars, that translates to $26 billion of wealth injected into the Ontario economy. In addition, both areas were the focus of millions of dollars of exploration activity during a recent gold rush on nearby lands.
“This exploration activity directly benefited the people and local communities of Northern Ontario.”