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Ontario Mining Minister George Pirie is about to get a lot more powerfu

October 6, 2023

The Doug Ford government’s new amendments to the Mining Act will have politicians assess project safety and closure plans, rather than technical experts

Through Bill 71, Ontario Mining Minister George Pirie, centre, will gain new powers to review exploration and mine closure plans. Photo: Carlos Osorio / The Narwhal

The Narwhal: A year after being named Ontario’s first standalone minister of mines in 50 years, George Pirie is consolidating authority over his ministry. In March, Pirie, the former mayor of Timmins, Ont., introduced Bill 71, the Building More Mines Act, which hands Pirie decision-making powers over exploration and mine closures, once relegated to staff. 

A 35-year mining industry executive and former president and CEO of Placer Dome Canada, Pirie has been tasked by the Doug Ford government to encourage mining in the province; notably in the northern Ring of Fire region, amid growing demand for critical minerals such as nickel, cobalt and lithium, seen as crucial for the battery building needed to transition away from fossil fuels towards electrification. 

The act, which received royal assent in May, is currently undergoing public regulatory consultations as to how to put the legislation into effect. But Bill 71 faces criticisms from First Nations, non-governmental organizations and legal experts who say the minister has given himself too much authority over mine exploration and closures that should remain in the hands of technical staff. 

“I think it gives a heck of a lot of power to the minister — and much unfettered discretion,” says Elizabeth Steyn, assistant professor at the University of Calgary’s law school teaching a course on critical minerals, regulatory frameworks and geopolitics.  


Nick Dunne

Nick Dunne is a freelance journalist who writes about culture and current affairs in northern Ontario. He has written for the Glob…

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