Implementing the Modernized Ontario Mining Act

In Chapter Two of this open textbook we learned that Indigenous people have a long history of mining in their traditional territories, covered by the Robinson-Huron treaties. The treaties came about as a result of mining companies seeking licenses from the colonial government to mine in the region. Treaties were made with Indigenous peoples to compensate them for lands lost to mining. The Sudbury Mining Journal (1890) made reference to the need for mining acts that would encourage people to stay in Canada. The need for mining acts is still relevant in today’s society.

Anishinabek people have always considered themselves stewards of the land. One of the roles that the Anishinabek Nation has taken on is the stewardship of natural resources and advocating on behalf of the members of First Nation communities on Minerals and Mines issues. The Anishinabek Nation has been working with the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry (MNDMF) on revising the outdated Ontario Mining Act. Extensive leadership engagement sessions held by the Anishinabek Nation in the fall and winter of 2008 and 2009 resulted in the document “Below the Surface, Anishinabek Mining Strategy.” The modernized Ontario Mining Act received Royal Assent in October 2009. Only some of the recommendations from the “Below the Surface, Anishinabek Mining Strategy” were adopted and incorporated into the new Ontario Mining Act.

While the Mining Act included wording that would respect Aboriginal and Treaty Rights, it did not go far enough in recognizing the jurisdiction of the Anishinabek Nation over lands and resources. In addition to the issue of jurisdiction, First Nations communities identified other concerns with the Modernized Mining Act. This new act did not fully address the Crown’s duty to consult and accommodate with First Nations. First Nations communities wanted greater control with respect to mining developments in their territories. For example, they wanted the authority to reject mining developments. First Nations communities requested that both industry and MNDMF provide funding for capacity building in terms of education and accessing resources that would aid in understanding and replying to proposals. Another major concern dealt with the importance of obtaining good jobs for their membership. With respect to the protection of culturally significant sites, concerns were raised about the identification process of these sites and how far or deep the site is to be protected. Concerns were also raised about the authority of the Ministry to grant approval for mining to proceed even if the area was identified it as culturally significant. First Nations communities wanted to be properly consulted and considered as equal partners in all initiatives and decision-making processes right from the start.

There were six major changes in the Mining Act that would respect Aboriginal and Treaty Rights. These would provide:

  • notification of activities on First Nation lands;

  • protection of culturally significant sites;
  • a prospectors awareness program on First Nations culture;
  • encouraged partnerships between industry and First Nations;
  • a graduated system for granting plans and permits; and
  • a dispute resolution process to resolve consultation related issues.”

(Union of Ontario Indians, Lands and Resources Department,2011)

While the inclusion of recommendations from the “Below the Surface, Anishinabek Mining Strategy” was a step towards building a more positive relationship between the Anishinabek Nation and the Ministry, further work is needed to establish a more mutual, respectful relationship.

Since 2016, the Anishinabek Nation (AN) and the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM), have been working together through a Regional Framework designed to provide Anishinabek communities with greater control over the development of minerals and mines in their territories. Set up as Regional Tables, Ministry representatives and Anishinabek communities meet quarterly to exchange information, share ideas, identify issues of common concern and develop solutions to challenges faced within the minerals and mines sector. These Tables have contributed to the relationship building process between Anishinabek communities and the Ministry, as well as improved accountability of all parties through the development of a system that tracks action points reported on at the Tables.

Learning Activities

  1. What has changed between the Anishinabek Nation and the Ministry that has led to the improvement of their relationship?
  2. What lessons can you take from this experience to apply to health and social sectors?

Expanding Your Knowledge

  1. For more information about the Modernized Mining act, check out the following link:
    Anishinabek Minerals and Mining – Community Engagement Sessions Report 2011


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