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Ontario NDP critics want prior consent in Mining Act amendments

Opposition critics are worried that the plan to amend the Mining Act is being rushed without enough consultation with First Nations
Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa, left, and Sudbury MPP Jamie West are urging the government to provide better language for Bill 71 which proposes to make changes to the Mining Act.

Two well-known New Democrat MPPs are calling for more robust guidelines on free and informed prior consent and consultations in the proposed amendments to the Ontario Mining Act in Bill 71.

Sudbury MPP Jamie West and Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa, who are the NDP critics for Northern Development, Indigenous and Treaty Relations and Labour, were speaking out after a recent tour across Northern Ontario where they were "listening to First Nations and community members who have shared stories about the critical need for meaningful consultation on developments that impact their territories."  

It was during these consultations, that mining industry representatives and First Nations leaders made it clear that the government's lack of a framework to lead consultations is the most significant barrier to projects going forward, said a news release from the NDP Queen's Park office.

Their concerns were also expressed when a Legislature committee held public hearings on Bill 71 in Timmins and Sudbury earlier this month.

Mamakwa said that after speaking with First Nations leaders, it became clear that more consultation over changes to the Mining Act were essential.

"We have heard directly from First Nations and rights holders about the devastating impacts of mining activities on our lands and waters. 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," said Mamakwa. 

His concerns were endorsed by West. 

"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."

Changes to the Mining Act could also mean changes to some site rehabilitation and mining lands reclamation procedures.  West and Mamakwa are concerned that the current framework of Bill 71 lowers the standards for site rehabilitation. 

The NDP said it wants the language changed to remove the words for rehabilitation from "comparable to" the original state, and replace it with the original wording of "improved."

"We must prioritize responsible mining practices that prioritize environmental protection and sustainability," said Mamakwa. 

"The current language in the bill weakens the rehabilitation standards, and we cannot afford to compromise the health of our lands and waters for future generations."


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