Will Ontario Succeed in Accelerating Mining Permits? | Ring of fire: field for the future?

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Ontario Mines Minister George Pirie (left) with Premier Doug Ford (right). (File photo)

Ontario's mining industry is pleased to see that the Ford government is seeking to speed up the approval of mining projects in the province, but some companies doubt that the legislative changes proposed this week will have the desired effect.

To make mining easier, Mines Minister George Pirie on Thursday tabled a bill that would make it easier to get permits by simplifying the requirements for mine closure plans.

M. Pirie says the proposed changes will not impact the duty to consult with Indigenous communities or compliance with environmental requirements.

Éric Lamontagne is the general manager of the Greenstone Gold mine. (File photo)

However, it is often these two processes that tend to take the most time, explains Éric Lamontagne, general manager of Greenstone Gold Mines.

In the case of our project, we got our mine closure permit well before the other permits, he says.

“The last step to getting a project started, usually, is First Nations agreements and environmental assessments. »

— Éric Lamontagne, General Manager of Greenstone Gold Mines

It is precisely at this stage that the Ring of Fire Metals company finds itself, which holds the majority of mining claims in the Ring of Fire, a promising and controversial deposit in Northern Ontario.

The company's president and CEO, Kristan Straub, says the changes proposed by the Ford government will be helpful in the future, but for now the company is focused on consultations with Matawa First Nations. /p>

Concluding agreements with Indigenous communities is a significant challenge for Ring of Fire Metals, as currently only two of Matawa's eight First Nations support the ambitions of the mining: the communities of Webequie and Marten Falls.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford, right, Chief Cornelius Wabasse, of Webequie First Nation, left, and Chief Bruce Achneepineskum of Marten Falls First Nation, center, show their signed 2020 Ring of Fire Agreement.

Others, like Neskantaga, actively oppose mining in the Ring of Fire, going so far as to declare a moratorium on all development in the area

Kate Kempton, the lawyer representing the communities of Attawapiskat, Ginoogaming, Constance Lake and Aroland, says some First Nations will challenge Mr. Pirie's bill.

If the Ford government maintains this approach, it will face injunctions and other legal actions, says the one who recently succeeded in suspending mining activity on the territory of the Ginoogaming First Nation.

Even if Ring of Fire Metals succeeded in reaching agreements with the indigenous communities of the region, the company would still have to wait for the completion of the six environmental assessments still in progress.< /p>

First Nations, Ontario and the federal government are currently studying the impact of building roads to reach the Ring of Fire deposit.

When the Ring of Fire mineral deposit was discovered, the federal government declared it to be “the mining discovery of the century” for Canada.

A seventh regional assessment, aimed at understanding the impact of mining on the wider region, was commissioned by the federal government in 2019 and has yet to begin.

Mr. Lamontagne believes that, to accelerate the construction of new mining projects, the various levels of government should concert their efforts to facilitate the granting of permits.

Mr. Pirie can make things easier in his sector; but if the Ministry of the Environment does not do the same, these reforms will have little impact because we will have to wait for permits anyway, he says.

With information from CBC's Jean-Loup Doudard and Warren Schlote News

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