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Treaties and Land Claims

Province shuts down Chiefs of Ontario’s request for a moratorium on staking mining claims

March 5, 2024

The Chiefs of Ontario say a moratorium would offer some breathing room to catch up on claims

A man wearing glasses sitting at a table with a microphone.
George Pirie, centre, is Ontario’s minister of mines. His office confirmed Tuesday it won’t entertain a one-year moratorium on mining claims. (The Canadian Press

First Peoples Law Report: CBC News -The office of Ontario Mines Minister George Pirie says a one-year moratorium on staking mining claims in Ontario is off the table.

The Chiefs of Ontario were in Toronto on Tuesday to reiterate their request for the moratorium, which they initially asked for in January.

They’ve said processing the claims puts an administrative burden on First Nations, which often have limited resources available to them.

The Chiefs of Ontario say some First Nations have seen up to a 30 per cent increase in claims staked in their territories over the past year.

A man wearing an Indigenous headdress.
Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe says he is disappointed the province said no to a one-year moratorium on staking mining claims. (Submitted by the Anishinabek Nation)

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe said it was “unfortunate to hear” the province would not consider a moratorium on mining claims.

“But hopefully they’re willing to sit and discuss this issue in more detail with the First Nations that are impacted by all of this, and not just the First Nations, but the Chiefs of Ontario and the leadership council of Chiefs of Ontario in general.”

In August 2022, the Anishinabek Nation made a similar request for a moratorium on claim staking and also received a no from the province.

In addition to the administrative burden, Niganobe said mining claims pull lands off the province’s land registry to set them aside. 

“And those could be lands that are talked about for maybe treaty discussions, or maybe land claim discussions, or settlements,” he said.

He added more engagement with the mining industry could offer some solutions to the excessive amount of mining claims.

“Maybe there are solutions that they [industry] may be able to offer too that meet somewhere in the middle,” Niganobe said.

“Because obviously they’re willing to engage where the province is not.”

Duty to consult

Before his office confirmed a moratorium was off the table, Pirie told CBC News the government is “fully committed to the duty to consult.”

“When exploration is conducted, the first thing that happens is that…they [First Nations] have input right off the bat,” he said.

“They’re consulted immediately on the whole process.”

Liberal MPP John Fraser said the province has failed to properly consult with First Nations ahead of mining projects.

“I think there’s a level of frustration with the Chiefs of Ontario and that’s what they’re expressing,” he said.

“I think what the chiefs are here to express is, ‘You’re not negotiating with us. You’re just going ahead and doing whatever you want to do, so stop.”

Green Party of Ontario leader Mike Schreiner said he has called on the government to work with First Nations to have their consent on mining projects.

“We’re hearing from many First Nations’ leaders that they don’t have a good relationship with the government and in some cases, the government is not even meeting with them,” he said.

“We need the government to sit down with First Nation leaders, ensure that there’s full, free, informed prior consent and that Indigenous nations are full equity partners in any mining developments that happen in the north.”

A close up of a middle-aged man.
Garry Clark is the director of the Ontario Prospectors and Developers Association. (Gord Ellis/CBC)
Working with First Nations

Garry Clark, director of the Ontario Prospectors Association, said he understands why many First Nations are frustrated with the number of mining claims they have to process.

“If you think about your desk and you’ve got a pile of files on your desk, it’s pretty easy to worry about health care and water and education compared to, you know, people coming on the land to look for minerals,” he said.

Clark said prospectors and mining companies don’t have accurate maps that show which First Nations they should be dealing with in a particular area.

If those maps existed, he said it would give mining companies an opportunity to connect with the First Nations in advance to discuss their plans for staking and see if it works for them.

He said if the First Nation had concerns at that point the company would not move ahead staking claims, and save everyone time.


Jonathan Migneault, Digital reporter/editor