Aggregates & Mining

Some definitions:

Aggregate is the technical name for stone, sand and gravel used in construction. Aggregate is surface-mined in pits and quarries across Ontario. On average, approximately 164 million tonnes of aggregate are used in Ontario each year. That’s about 12 tonnes per person. (source)

Mining is the extraction or removal of minerals or metals from below the ground. The Province posts related information online here: https://www.ontario.ca/page/mining-lands-administration-system, and the Mining Act is also posted.

FOCA members, who are surface rights owners (SRO), have a significant level of concern regarding the regulations which govern mining exploration in Ontario. Some members have had very bad experiences where irresponsible mining companies and prospectors have seriously damaged the recreation value of private lands and crown lands used for recreation activities.

Late in the 2023, the Ontario Auditor General (AG) released a “Value for Money” report about management of aggregate resources, which found that – while essential to Ontario – the aggregate industry has issues. Download the 2-page AG report summary (PDF).

The report concludes that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry does not have effective systems and processes in place to oversee aggregate development and operations in a manner that minimizes adverse impacts on the environment.

Many of these concerns, as well as cumulative impacts of aggregate operations, were cited in FOCA’s 2019 Aggregate Resources Act submission to the Province (download PDF, 4 pages). 

RECENT MINING NEWS:

January 3, 2024 – Ontario chiefs seek halt to online mining claim-staking (Northern Ontario Business) – “Indigenous leaders in Ontario are calling for a one-year moratorium on digital mineral claim staking, which replaced traditional claim staking in 2018.” FOCA has been involved in improvements to mining permits for many years, understanding that industrial enterprises need to consider pre-existing and other land uses and parties. Now, First Nations are objecting to the lack of consultation related to virtual (online) mineral staking. 

January 2024 – Rural [Quebec] communities push back as mining claims surge (Cottage Life)

For many years (2003 – 2018) FOCA was part of the Minister’s Mining Act Advisory Committee (MMAAC), contributing to discussions about proposed modernization of the Mining Act, including new regulations governing early exploration activities, with the goal of a more transparent process that would guarantee public input and improved environmental protection.

Disappointingly, the MMAAC appears to be on hold since 2019. FOCA contributed to discussions up to 2018; see more below, in “Background”.

Prior to the recent proposed revisions, much of Ontario’s Mining Act was over 100 years old. As part of the necessary upgrades and reforms, FOCA’s input to the regulations included as overarching goals:

  1. Relief for surface rights owners who did not own their mining rights.
  2. Recognition of the interests of cottagers and other landowners living adjacent to crown land that might be staked and subject to exploration activities.
  3. Transparency in the process, including full public information and opportunities for input at early stages when the Ministry could intervene to mitigate potential impacts when the community raises legitimate concerns.

FOCA’s goal has been to ensure any new regulations include provisions to guarantee that serious environmental and social issues will be addressed as part of the approval process for exploration activities.

Earlier News:

2022 – Glencore & TOARC (The Ontario Aggregate Resources Corporation) have partnered to rehabilitate Sudbury-area aggregate pits; download an information poster from TOARC’s 2022 Annual Report (PDF, 1 page); and read related media coverage from 2021 (Northern Ontario Business)

September 22, 2020 – Visualizing the Importance of Environmental Management in Mining (Intergovernmental Forum on Mining “IGF”) – “A failure to manage the impacts of mining on the environment can threaten the viability of operations, but can also undermine the relationships between a mining company, affected communities, and all levels of government.

March 11, 2019 – FOCA was advised by David Staskus, Branch Executive Officer with the Ontario Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines in Sudbury that the current government has the status of the Minister’s Mining Act Advisory Committee (MMAAC) “under review”. This stakeholder committee has been a valuable forum for input from miners, prospectors, landowners, environmental interests and First Nations. FOCA has been a member since 2003.

 

Please note: the following is archival material, and some links to third-party resources may no longer be active.

May 1, 2018 – Changes to the Office of the Mining and Lands Commissioner

April 10, 2018 – Ontario Launches Online Mining Claims. The online claims process is one part of the reforms intended to modernize prospecting in Ontario, and potentially lower the intrusive nature of physical staking. At MMAAC, FOCA continues to fight for better notification of exploration activities to the public and adjacent landowners.

>Modernizing mining and mineral exploration in Ontario

From the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing: The Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) is the statement of the government’s policies on land use planning. It applies province-wide and provides clear policy direction on land use planning to promote strong communities, a strong economy, and a clean and healthy environment. It includes policies on key issues that affect our communities, such as:
  • the efficient use and management of land and infrastructure
  • protection of the environment and resources
  • ensuring appropriate opportunities for employment and residential development, including support for a mix of uses.
Municipalities use the PPS to develop their official plans and to guide and inform decisions on other planning matters. Land use planning in waterfront communities is of great interest to waterfront property owners. FOCA dedicates considerable effort in the name of sensible policies and adequate public involvement in the planning process.  The revised (2014) PPS (pdf; 56 pages) makes specific reference to planning for mineral resources, under Section 2.4: “Minerals and petroleum resources shall be protected for long-term use.” However, mining and mineral exploration can be a disruptive and intrusive land use especially when it occurs (or private, or Crown land)  in settled areas or in  cottage communities. These types of conflicts, and the need for modern approaches and policies to govern mining activities, were the reasons FOCA became deeply involved in mining policy.

Excerpts from FOCA’s letter to the Minister in 2012 regarding the proposal for a new regulation under the Mining Act ‘Exploration Plans and Permits’:

FOCA members, who are surface rights owners (SRO), have a significant level of concern regarding the regulations which govern mining exploration in Ontario. Some members have had very bad experiences where irresponsible mining companies and prospectors have seriously damaged the recreation value of private lands and crown lands used for recreation activities.

Our goal has been to ensure any new regulations include provisions to guarantee that serious environmental and social issues will be addressed as part of the approval process for exploration activities.

Throughout the process FOCA has had three broad objectives for the proposed changes:

  1. FOCA has advocated for a regulatory framework and approval process for mining exploration work that included a transparent process involving full public information with opportunities for public input at an early stage when the Ministry could intervene to mitigate potential impacts on landowners and nearby cottagers, or the environment when the community raised legitimate concerns. We believe the proposed regulations fall short on this objective particularly in the case of exploration plans.
  2. FOCA has advocated for a recognition of the interests of cottagers and other private landowners whose properties adjoin crown land that is used regularly for recreation and that might be staked and subject to exploration activities. We believe these interests should be recognized as separate from the interests of Surface Rights Owners (SROs). We believe that the proposed regulations do not recognize this interest group in the case of exploration plans.
  3. FOCA also advocated for relief for SROs who did not own their mining rights and this was addressed in phase one of this process with guaranteed notification and through the very welcome withdrawal of mining rights in Southern Ontario for properties where the surface rights owner did not own the mining rights and where the properties were not already staked for mining. We also welcomed the provisions in northern Ontario that provide a mechanism for landowners to apply to have the mineral rights for their properties withdrawn.

FOCA strongly urged the Ministry to include a provision in the Mining Act Modernization proposal to allow the Minister the discretion to “bump up” a Plan application to a Permit application when significant areas of concern are identified by the public or by a SRO.

The permit process is designed to deal with potentially serious social and environmental concerns and as such includes an EBR posting and the capacity of the Minister to impose terms and conditions on exploration activities when significant issues are identified. The process for the filing of exploration plans does not allow for terms and conditions therefore in extreme cases it is important to be able to bump a plan application up to a permit. The legislation as passed envisaged a bump up provision but the proposals as posted on the EBR only have this provision for issues raised by Aboriginal or Metis groups but NOT for issues raised by the public or by a SRO. We believe the Ministry is abrogating the responsibility of the government by not including this provision. While we anticipate only a tiny minority of cases would be considered under this provision the current proposal means that if the Minister or even the Premier were convinced that a public issue warranted further review, the Minister does not have the prerogative to bump it up to a Permit which would ensure a full public decision process including an EBR posting.

Examples of cases where Minister’s discretion might be exercised:

We had been asked by Ministry representatives to outline some specific examples of circumstances which might lead to the exercise of Ministerial discretion to bump an Exploration Plan filing up to a Permit application.

We suggested that a Ministerial decision to bump up would not be based just on “NIMBY” arguments but would reflect a public interest case made regarding one or more of the following:

  • Areas of crown lands regularly used for recreation where special site rehabilitation may be needed or where seasonal limitations on certain exploration activities might be required. These circumstances might include public trails, recognized sensitive wildlife or fishing sites or other circumstances identified by users of the area. Under the proposed regulations if these concerns were raised through Aboriginal consultation the Ministry has the power to act. All we are asking for is for the Ministry to also maintain the discretion to act if the issue is raised by the public or a SRO.
  • Areas within a set distance (suggest 500 metres) of a settled area of permanent or seasonal residences or established lodges or tourist businesses where the local landowners have identified issues related to the timing of work and special site rehabilitation requirements. Again the proposals already allow for the Ministry to act if such issues are raised by Aboriginal or Metis consultation. We simply want the Minister to have the capacity to act on the basis of public issues as well. For example the use of explosives and the rehabilitation of stripped sites as part of planned activities might require special treatment in proximity to settled areas and businesses.
  • An application from an explorer who had a bad track record regarding previous work and site rehabilitation. Surely the Ministry should maintain the capacity to require special terms and conditions when dealing with an explorer that has a documented record of previous problems.
  • A site with a significant environmental value that might require all or part of the claim area to be closed for exploration. This would be an extreme case and would reflect consultation with other Ministries such a MNR and the identification of specific circumstances involving for example a species at risk, an ANSI or an Area of Ecological Concern.
  • A site with a significant environmental value that requires special procedures during exploration and possibly special site rehabilitation. Again the Ministry proposes to maintain discretion to act in this kind of case if the issue is raised by an Aboriginal or Metis group. We simply ask that the regulation recognize similar Ministerial discretion if the issue is raised by the public.