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Chiefs of Ontario call for 1-year pause on staking mining claims in Ontario

When a mineral exploration company or prospector discovers a mineral deposit in person, others will often stake the surrounding area on an online map. (CBC - image credit)
When a mineral exploration company or prospector discovers a mineral deposit in person, others will often stake the surrounding area on an online map. (CBC - image credit)

The Chiefs of Ontario are calling for a 365-day moratorium on mining claims staked across the province.

They say many First Nations can't keep up with the administrative burden of reviewing the mining claims staked in their territories.

"Mining claim staking continues to grow at a pace that far outstrips the ability for First Nations to respond and directly impacts our inherent, treaty and constitutionally protected rights," said Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare in a news release.

Deputy grand chief Glen Hare of the Anishinabek Nation speaks as representatives for First Nations and environmental groups hold a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, April 23, 2018., asking International Atomic Energy Agency to investigate radioactive waste management in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Deputy grand chief Glen Hare of the Anishinabek Nation speaks as representatives for First Nations and environmental groups hold a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, April 23, 2018., asking International Atomic Energy Agency to investigate radioactive waste management in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare is calling for a one-year moratorium on the staking of mining claims in First Nations across the province. (Sean Kilpatrick / Canadian Press )

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.

In August 2022, the Anishinabek Nation made a similar request for a moratorium on claim staking.

"There wasn't any real response from the Ministry [of Mines] or the premier himself," Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe told CBC News.

Niganobe said prospectors and mineral exploration companies now stake their claims using an online system, and when deposits are discovered, there's often a rush in online staking.

"At one point, the online staking would send out an electronic memo to the First Nations in the area, but sometimes that was getting up to like 100 emails a day," he said.

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe
Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe says First Nations are under-resourced to process all the staked mining claims that come through. (Submitted by the Anishinabek Nation)

Niganobe said the offices that review those claims often just have a few staff members.

"It's difficult for the First Nations to keep up with that because they're not funded or helped in any way to be able to deal with the influx of all these requests."

The Chiefs of Ontario, as with the Anishnabek Nation two years ago, say a one-year moratorium would give them time to catch up and process the claims that have already been staked.

Niganobe said more funding to support the teams that process those claims would also go a long way.

Staying competitive

Garry Clark, director of the Ontario Prospectors Association, said a one-year moratorium on staking mining claims would set the province back with regards to mining.

"It's a worldwide competition," he said. "If Ontario shut down for a year, then people would go to other places."

Clark said exploration companies would put more of their resources into other provinces or countries if a moratorium were in place.

He added the number of overall claims could be reduced if First Nations identified areas ahead of time that they don't want explored, because they are hunting grounds or culturally significant, for instance.

Precedent in B.C.

Last September, the Supreme Court of Canada gave British Columbia 18 months to design a new system that would incorporate consultation with First Nations when mining claims are staked online.

Robin Junger, a lawyer with McMillan LLP who specializes in Indigenous and environmental law, said there's no guarantee Ontario would agree to a moratorium on staking mining claims.

"Even in British Columbia where the courts ruled specifically on this question, they did not impose a moratorium," he said.

"You can still stake claims during the 18-month period."

Junger said it's not uncommon for the provinces, or mining companies, to enter into agreements with first Nations to fund capacity for consultation on mining claims.

CBC News contacted the Ministry of Mines for a response to the call for a moratorium on claim staking, but did not receive a response by the time of publication.