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Sudbury MPP not ready to back changes to the Mining Act

New Democrats voicing concerns that the proposed changes to Bill 71 are moving too fast and without enough consultation 

Opposition MPPs in Ontario are saying the government is moving too quickly and without enough consultation with First Nations on Bill 71, the legislation that proposes changes to Ontario's Mining Act. 

Informally, Bill 71 is called Building More Mines Act. Part of the reason for upgrading the Mining act, according to the government, is to speed up the process of opening new mines. 

New Democrat MPPs Jamie West (Sudbury) and Sol Mamakwa (Kiiwetinoong), were speaking out this week as the government Standing Committee on the Interior held public consultations in both Timmins and Sudbury to hear comments and concerns from special interest groups and the public.

As the New Democrat MPP representing Ontario's largest mining municipality, West said he is still undecided on whether he will support the bill in its third and final reading.

West had supported the bill in its first reading earlier this year so it would be brought out to the public hearing level, hoping that it could be amended and improved.

Speaking at the Radisson Hotel in Sudbury, West said meaningful consultation means having all parties sit down to talk about how to get things done that are beneficial to everyone. He said it cannot be a buddy-buddy system where the mining company shows up with a plan and declares what the priorities are.

“This lack of consultation with the Indigenous community … it's not how mining is done. It hasn't been for at least two decades,” West told reporters.

West said he was excited when he learned the government committee would hold hearings in Timmins and Sudbury, but while those two cities are major mining centres, he said there are other important areas in the North to be considered.

"A lot of this bill has to do with what's going on in the Ring of Fire. And you know, Thunder Bay to Timmins is 800 kilometers; to Sudbury it's over 1,000. I don't know why we stayed over here and why we didn't go anywhere else in Northern Ontario. There are a lot of mines in Northern Ontario, not just in this corner. And if you're having a bill that is going to talk about opening up the Ring of Fire, as well as developments, why wouldn't we go out to Thunder Bay or at least Sault Ste. Marie or somewhere?" West asked.

West said his decision on whether to support Bill 71 in its final form will depend on what changes or improvements are made to the final version of the bill. 

Additional concerns were voiced by his fellow NDP MPP, Mamakwa, who is a member of Kingfisher Lake First Nation and a resident of Sioux Lookout. He said one of the main concerns is that government seems ready to develop new mines and mining operations without first having finalized closure plans in place. Mamakwa added that the First Nations that are part of the Matawa group (closest to the Ring of Fire) are also concerned because they have not been consulted on the changes proposed by Bill 71.

He said when he spoke out at the hearings in Timmins, Mamakwa said consultation needs to happen with all First Nations, not just a select few. Mamakwa said it appears the government is using a divide-and-conquer approach by only consulting with First Nations that have policies favourable to the government. 

Mamakwa said the government has entered into agreements with some First Nations but has ignored the concerns of others.

"I told them yesterday that there is no Ring of Fire unless all First Nations are being spoken to. And right now it's not happening. And when I ask questions about the process, or the Ring of Fire, they always revert to the First Nations that they are working with, or other First Nations that are working in different mines. And you know, I told them that that's very clearly your approach to things when you try to divide and conquer First Nations."

Len Gillis covers mining and health care for


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Len Gillis

About the Author: Len Gillis

Graduating from the Journalism program at Canadore College in the 1970s, Gillis has spent most of his career reporting on news events across Northern Ontario with several radio, television and newspaper companies. He also spent time as a hardrock miner.
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