A group of First Nation communities in mineral-rich Northern Ontario is asking the province to postpone implementation of new mining regulations that went into effect this week, claiming the rules were drafted without full consultation.
The new regulations are part of a modernized Mining Act that was passed in 2009 to promote mineral exploration and development in a way that recognizes aboriginal and treaty rights and minimizes impact on the environment.
The Anishinabek Nation, which represents 39 member communities and some 55,000 people in Ontario, says the new regulations should have the blessing of a bilateral table on mining that the government agreed to create in September.
“We had a very distinct understanding with Ontario as to the process by which we were going to do this work,” said Chief Isadore Day, a spokesman for the Union of Ontario Indians that represents the Anishinabek Nation.
In a statement penned by Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee, the Union of Ontario Indians also said the Anishinabek was concerned about recognition of treaty rights, resource revenue sharing, environmental stewardship and local capacity of First Nations to meet demands of regulations.
The complaints come amid growing demands by aboriginal groups in Canada for greater say around the terms of resource extraction on their lands, as well as a wave of global resource nationalism.
In March the Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam and Matimekush-Lac John Innu communities in northern Quebec filed a $900-million lawsuit against a unit of Rio Tinto Plc, saying that was how much it would cost to fix damages to the local environment after more than 60 years of mining.
The communities also asked for an injunction against the further mining operations in Quebec and Labrador by the unit, Iron Ore Company of Canada, which is majority-owned by Rio Tinto, the world’s second-largest miner.
In February, it took a court injunction to persuade a handful of protesters from the Attawapiskat First Nation to abandon their blockade of the winter access road to the Victor diamond mine owned by global miner De Beers SA.
The Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines says the new mining regulations that went into effect on Monday are the result of two years of consultations with aboriginal groups and communities, industry, environmental organizations and municipal representatives.
“Modernization of the Mining Act, and now the supporting regulations, is the result of comprehensive consultations,” Minister for Northern Development and Mines Michael Gravelle said in an e-mailed statement. He said that between Jan. 1, 2010, and Jan. 31, 2012, there were more than 70 discussions and consultation sessions between all groups involved.
“I was certainly grateful to have the opportunity to discuss these changes directly with Grand Chief Madahbee just last week, and reaffirmed our commitment to establish a bilateral table on mining.”