QUEENS' PARK – Ontario NDP Members Jamie West and Sol Mamakwa are calling for more robust guidelines on free and informed prior consent and a framework for consultation in the proposed amendments to the Mining Act in Bill 71. The Ontario NDP supports responsible mining, recognizing its potential to contribute to sustainable development, create jobs, and benefit local communities while prioritizing environmental protection and Indigenous rights.
The Critics for Northern Development, Indigenous and Treaty Relations and Labour have travelled extensively across Northern Ontario, listening to First Nations and community members who have shared stories about the critical need for meaningful consultation on developments that impact their territories. During these consultations, mining industry representatives and First Nations leaders made it clear that the government's lack of a framework to lead consultations is the most significant barrier to projects going forward.
Sol Mamakwa, NDP Member for Kiiwetinoong, stated, "We have heard directly from First Nations and rights holders about the devastating impacts of mining activities on our lands and waters. The government must establish a framework for consultation that includes all impacted First Nations and communities to ensure their meaningful consent in decision-making processes."
"These amendments are a crucial opportunity to ensure that First Nations rights and voices are respected and upheld in mining activities," echoed Jamie West, NDP Member for Sudbury. "Free and informed prior consent is a fundamental principle of reconciliation, and it must be central to any changes in the Mining Act."
The proposed amendments also include essential provisions for site rehabilitation guidelines. West and Mamakwa are concerned that the current framework of Bill 71 lowers the standards for site rehabilitation. They seek to strike out the lower requirement for rehabilitation to be "comparable to" the original state and replace it with the original wording of "improved."
"We must prioritize responsible mining practices that prioritize environmental protection and sustainability," said Mamakwa. "The current language in the bill weakens the rehabilitation standards, and we cannot afford to compromise the health of our lands and waters for future generations."
West added, "site rehabilitation is not just a legal obligation, but a moral one. We must ensure that mining companies are held accountable for their environmental impacts and that rehabilitation efforts are comprehensive and restorative."