On December 2, 2015, Ontario introduced the Mining Amendment Act, 2015 (Bill), which seeks to amend the Mining Act. If adopted, the changes will result in the implementation of an online registration system for mining claims as well as a new electronic mining lands administration system in Ontario.
The changes seek to enhance the global competitiveness of Ontario’s mining industry and forms Part III of the ongoing Mining Act Modernization process, an important part of the Ontario government’s Growth Plan for Northern Ontario.
In his introduction of the Bill, the Minister of Northern Development and Mines (Minister) stated that the “proposed amendments would significantly modernize how claims are registered and managed in Ontario” and that “the changes would enhance Ontario’s global competitiveness in the mining sector, encouraging prospecting, claim registration and exploration, which are key to the development of new mines.”
NOTABLE PROPOSED AMENDMENTS
The Bill proposes a new mining lands administration system that seeks to administer public lands for mining purposes, and also administer prospectors’ licences, mineral tenure, and exploration plans and exploration permits. The system will also allow for the electronic registration of mining claims, creating and recording mining claim records, abstracts and maps, providing electronic access to the mining claims registry and producing reports, documents and other information.
The proposed changes allow the Minister to establish directives relating to the use of the system by the public, including directives specifying the information that a person must submit in order to use the system and the format in which the information must be submitted.
Claim Registration System
The Bill seeks to introduce a new electronic claim registration system that would replace the current ground staking and paper map staking system.
To register a claim, licensees will need to access the administration system and register cell claims electronically by identifying cells on a grid overlaid on a map of Ontario. Each cell will measure 15 seconds latitude and 22.5 seconds longitude.
According to the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (Ministry), this procedure will now make it easier for prospectors to explore by replacing the former system that involved placing physical stakes in the ground; it makes claim registration both less detrimental to the environment and more respectful of private landowners’ rights.
In transitioning to the new claim registration system, existing legacy claims will be delineated on the provincial grid and then converted to mining claims registered in the mining claims registry. To do so, a mining recorder must gather information as to the precise location of the boundaries of the legacy claim using the best available information including, (i) information that was filed with the application to record the legacy claim and (ii) information gathered by means of inspections, Global Positioning System georeferencing data, surveys or other means of verifying claim boundaries; and then make a final determination as to the location of the legacy claim based on the information gathered.
The power to make a final determination as to the location of a legacy claim includes the power to decide or settle any disputes as to overlapping legacy claims and adjust the boundaries of the claim as well as the power to adjust boundaries of a legacy claim, as staked by the claim holder or as described in the application to record a map staked claim.
Once converted, a legacy claim applies with respect to the land included in the delineated area on the provincial grid regardless of where the claim was ground or map staked or where it was indicated on the Ministry’s maps. In addition, all rights or obligations arising under the Mining Act, all agreements, liens, orders and other documents; and, any exploration plan or exploration permit that existed prior to conversion continue in effect after the conversion date.
According to the Ministry, it is currently working on updating claim maps to more accurately reflect the location of existing mining claims. During this time, claim holders are encouraged to georeference their existing mining claims to Ministry georeferencing standards and resolve issues with the location of their mining claims by contacting the provincial mining recorder.
Ensuring that existing claims are properly recorded is particularly important as remedies related to errors in conversion will be limited. In particular, a determination made by a recorder as to the location of a legacy claim and its resulting delineation on the provincial grid is final and not subject to appeal. In addition, there can be no cause of action against the Crown, its agent or employees resulting from any disagreement related to the conversion process. The proposed amendments also provide that nothing done or not done in accordance with the Mining Act are to be considered an expropriation, putting further emphasis on holders ensuring claims are accurately transferred.
Mining Claims Registry
A mining claims registry will be created as an electronic public record of mining claims. The mining claims registry includes records of all mining claims, an abstract of pertinent entries for each mining claim, maps showing the location of all mining claims, any documents relating to the mining claim that are in electronic form, and information about each claim holder.
The contents of the mining claims registry will be made available to the public through the administration system on a Government of Ontario website and at the Provincial Recording Office.
According to the Ministry, if and when the Bill is adopted, it will be implemented in two stages: the first is coming in spring of 2016, and the second phase, which would include integrating existing mining claims into the new system, launching the online mining claim registration process, and enabling online transaction of all mining lands administration matters, is expected to become effective in the summer of 2017.