Mining Act

The Mining Act is the provincial legislation that governs and regulates prospecting, mineral exploration, mine development and rehabilitation in Ontario.  The purpose of the Act is to encourage prospecting, staking and exploration for the development of mineral resources, in a manner consistent with the recognition and affirmation of existing Aboriginal and treaty rights in Section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, including the duty to consult, and to minimize the impact of these activities on public health and safety and the environment.

Mining Act Modernization (MAM)

The origins of the Mining Act date back to the 19th century. Prior to today’s modernization efforts, the most recent significant updates to the Act were made in the early 1990s, with new legislation at that time focusing on environmental and rehabilitation matters.

In 2009, Bill 173 - An Act to Amend the Mining Act, was passed into law. The modernization process is intended to promote mineral exploration and development in a manner that recognizes Aboriginal and treaty rights, to introduce processes that are more respectful of private landowners, and to minimize the impact of mineral exploration and development on the environment. These commitments were previously expressed in Ontario’s first-ever Mineral Development Strategy released in 2006 and reaffirmed in July 2008 when Ontario’s Premier announced steps to modernize the Mining Act. 

MNDM is implementing Mining Act Modernization and the changes prescribed by Bill 173 using a phased-in approach. While some changes came into effect upon Royal Assent, most of the changes are being brought into effect over time. Relevant regulations and policies are being or have been developed following extensive consultation and in collaboration with many representatives of the mineral exploration sector, the mining industry, Aboriginal communities and organizations, environmental groups as well as many other stakeholders, private citizens and other parties with an interest in the stewardship of Ontario’s mining lands.

MAM Phase III

The proposed next step in the Mining Act Modernization process is to implement less intrusive claim staking by moving from current methods of ground staking and paper map staking, to online mining claim registration across the entire province. These next steps also propose modernizing Ontario’s mining lands administration processes from the current paper-based model to a digital-age electronic system.
Mining Act Modernization (Phase III)

What Was Achieved Under MAM Phase I and II

MNDM has taken a phased approach to implementing Mining Act Modernization (MAM) and the changes introduced by Bill 173. While some changes came into effect on Royal Assent in 2009, most of these have been brought into effect over time as the relevant regulations and policies were developed following extensive stakeholder consultation.

Phase I was implemented in 2011 and focused on the rights of private landowners: it required notice of claim staking be provided to the private land owner by the prospector and, in Northern Ontario, gave private landowners the ability to apply to have their lands withdrawn from staking. Phase I also included a less intrusive claim staking process (map staking) for most of southern Ontario.

Phase II included a number of new initiatives that were implemented in 2012 and 2013 including:

  • New Regulatory system of Exploration Plans and Exploration Permits for Early Stage Mineral Exploration:

    Exploration Plans

    Before undertaking certain early exploration activities, an exploration plan must be submitted and notification provided to any surface rights owner(s). Aboriginal communities potentially affected by activities proposed in an exploration plan are notified by the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) and have an opportunity to provide feedback before the proposed activities can be carried out. Effective April 1, 2013 exploration plans became mandatory for prescribed activities.

    Exploration Permits

    Some early exploration activities require an exploration permit. Those activities are only allowed to take place once the permit has been approved by MNDM. Surface rights owners must be notified when applying for a permit. Aboriginal communities potentially affected by the exploration permit activities are to be consulted and given the opportunity to provide comments and feedback before a decision is made on the permit. Effective April 1, 2013 exploration permits became mandatory for prescribed activities.
     
  • Clarifying the Requirements for Aboriginal Consultation

    Changes to regulations dealing with early exploration activities as well as more advanced projects that are subject to closure plans clarified the process for Aboriginal consultation.  The process takes a graduated approach that varies to reflect the type of activities and their potential for impacts, which increase as projects advance. There is also flexibility to provide for deeper consultation where required.  Further guidance on consultation is provided in MNDM’s policy: Consultation and Arrangements with Aboriginal Communities at Early Exploration
     
  • Providing for the Withdrawal From Staking of Locations Meeting the Criteria for Sites of Aboriginal Cultural Significance

    Since November 1, 2012, Aboriginal communities have been able to apply to have sites of Aboriginal cultural significance withdrawn from claim staking to prevent mineral exploration in these areas.
     
  • Implementing a Mandatory Mining Act Awareness Program

    Completion of this educational program is required to obtain or renew a prospector’s licences and for those supervising early exploration projects. This free online program:
    • introduces basic information on the mining sequence, staking claims, early exploration and Aboriginal consultation requirements;
    • emphasizes changes that have been made to the regulations; and
    • reaffirms the importance of having consideration for other users of public land.

You can complete the Mining Act Awareness Program here .

Phase II changes implemented in 2012 and 2013 also resulted in a number of changes for existing provisions including:

  • Voluntary Rehabilitation

    Since November 1, 2012, individuals or companies have been able to apply to voluntarily rehabilitate an existing mine hazard that they did not create on Crown-held land, without becoming liable for pre-existing environmental issues on the site. 
     
  • Claim Staking

    Since November 1, 2012, Global Positioning System (GPS) geo-referencing data has been required on the application to record a mining claim. MNDM has provided a set of standards to which to adhere. This requirement only applies to ground staked mining claims on lands that are not surveyed into lots and concessions.
     
  • Assessment Work Credits

    Assessment work is prospecting and/or exploration work (trenching, blasting, diamond drilling, geological or geophysical surveys, etc.) that a mining claim holder must do every year to keep the mining claim in good standing.
     
  • Bulk Samples

    The process for obtaining permission to test mineral content changed for applications made after November 1, 2012 and thresholds have been set for the amount of material that will be considered a bulk sample. A bulk sample permission and an exploration permit are now both required to extract a sample from a mining claim to test its mineral content.
     
  • Closure Plans

    Changes were made to the regulation dealing with closure plans to formalize the rules for Aboriginal consultation, for projects with closure plans submitted after April 1, 2013. Aboriginal consultation is to be carried out before the submission of a certified closure plan or closure plan amendment.  MNDM may require a consultation plan as well as reports on progress and will provide direction to the proponent as necessary to guide the consultation process.

    There are also provisions for facilitation (if required) to assist with the process.