Exploration Plans

The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) has introduced a new regulation for exploration plans and permits, with graduated requirements applying to early exploration activities of low to moderate impact undertaken on mining claims, mining leases and licenses of occupation. Those proposing to undertake minimal to low impact exploration plan activities (early exploration proponents) may submit an exploration plan beginning November 1, 2012.

Effective April 1, 2013 exploration plans are mandatory for prescribed activities.

Early exploration activities requiring an exploration plan include:

  • Geophysical Activity requiring a power generator.
  • Line cutting, where the width of the line is 1.5 metres or less.
  • Mechanized drilling for the purposes of obtaining rock or mineral samples, where the weight of the drill is 150 kilograms or less.
  • Mechanized surface stripping (overburden removal), where the total combined surface area stripped is less than 100 square metres within a 200-metre radius.
  • Pitting and trenching (of rock), where the total volume of rock is between 1-3 cubic metres within a 200-metre radius.

How to submit an exploration plan

  1. Completion of an exploration plan: This form summarizes the proposed early exploration activity and the timing of the activity. Early exploration proponents must also provide a map of the general location where the proposed activity will take place and confirm that they have a qualified supervisor who has completed the Mining Act Awareness Program (MAAP).
  2. Notice to surface rights owners: Early exploration proponents are required to provide notice of their intent to conduct early exploration activities, which should include a draft copy of the exploration plan to those whose property is within the mining claim, lease or licence of occupation area that will be explored.
  3. Aboriginal consultation: Early exploration proponents are encouraged to consult Aboriginal communities, as identified by MNDM, early in the process, even prior to submitting an exploration plan. If consultation occurs prior to the submission of an exploration plan, an Aboriginal consultation report should accompany the exploration plan when submitted.  When an exploration plan is submitted, MNDM will provide a copy to Aboriginal communities and request that those communities provide comments, if any, to the Director of Exploration (MNDM) at the Sudbury, Thunder Bay or Timmins office.  The date that a copy of the exploration plan is sent to Aboriginal communities is referred to as the circulation date for the purposes of the regulations.
  4. Withdrawal or adjustment of exploration plan: Early exploration proponents may withdraw or make adjustments to a submitted exploration plan at any time within 30 days after the circulation date.  This action may be in response to comments received from an Aboriginal community or surface rights owner.
  5. Commencement of activities or obtaining an exploration permit: Early exploration proponents may commence their activities 30 days after the circulation date, unless the Director of Exploration (MNDM) requires that an exploration permit  be obtained for one or more of the activities.  All exploration plan activities must be performed in accordance with Provincial Standards for Early Exploration.

An exploration plan will be effective for a period of two years. 

Exploration Plans FAQ

When do exploration plans become mandatory?

Submission of an exploration plan is voluntary beginning November 1, 2012.  Exploration plans will be mandatory as of April 1, 2013.  If you started exploration work before April 1st and it includes an activity that requires an exploration plan, you must have an exploration plan in effect as of April 1, 2013 to continue that activity. 

What fees are associated with submitting an exploration plan?

There are no fees associated with submitting an exploration plan.

I need help filling out my form, whom should I contact?

Contact a Mineral Exploration and Development Consultant at an MNDM office in Sudbury, Thunder Bay or Timmins.

How long does it take for a plan to be approved and will I be notified when it is approved?

An exploration plan is not subject to ministry approval. The early exploration proponent may commence the exploration plan activities included in an exploration plan on the day that is 30 calendar day after the circulation date, unless the proponent has withdrawn the exploration plan or if the Director of Exploration determines that an exploration permit is required for any of the activities.

If the Director of Exploration determines that an exploration permit is necessary for one or more of the activities on my plan will I be notified?

If the Director of Exploration determines that an exploration permit is necessary, you will be notified.

If I do not notify the surface rights owner, will MNDM notify them for me?

No, MNDM will not notify them.  You are responsible for notifying the surface rights owner and you will be asked to certify that you have done so when you fill out your Exploration Plan Submission form. You are expected to keep records should the notification be questioned. The surface rights owner(s) of a piece of land can be identified by performing a title search at a Land Registry Office.

If I wish to consult Aboriginal communities before submitting a plan, how do I find out which communities to consult?

Contact a Mineral Exploration and Development Consultant at an MNDM office near you, and they will identify which Aboriginal communities you must consult.  The policy on Consultation and Arrangements with Aboriginal Communities at Early Exploration provides clarity and guidance to proponents for carrying out consultation requirements with Aboriginal communities.

If I consult with Aboriginal communities before I apply will I be able to start earlier?

Exploration plan activities cannot begin until 30 days after the circulation date. The circulation date is always the day that MNDM sends the plan to the Aboriginal communities. We encourage early contact with communities so your exploration plan can reflect the outcomes of those conversations. By doing so you may avoid delays encountered if the Director of Exploration finds that an exploration permit is required to deal with concerns raised about Aboriginal and treaty rights.

Do I need to take all Aboriginal community comments received into account? Do I need to show MNDM proof that I’ve modified my plan according to the comments? 

While we would encourage you to consider all comments received from Aboriginal communities, consultation is concerned with potential adverse effects on a community’s Aboriginal and treaty rights.  Your Aboriginal Consultation Report should show how those potential effects have been considered in the plan, including any proposals to mitigate potential adverse effects, such as changes made to the timing or location of activities.
The policy on Consultation and Arrangements with Aboriginal Communities at Early Exploration provides clarity and guidance to proponents for carrying out consultation requirements with Aboriginal communities.

Is there a penalty if I don't do all the exploration plan activities?

No.

What exploration activities can I conduct without an exploration plan or permit and may I conduct them before my plan or permit is effective?

There are a number of exploration activities that do not require a plan or permit and may be conducted while waiting for a plan or permit is effective. These may include the following:

  • Prospecting activities such as grab/hand sampling, geochemical/soil sampling, geological mapping
  • Stripping/pitting/trenching below thresholds for plans/permits
  • Transient Geophysical Surveys such as radiometric, magnetic
  • Other baseline data acquisition such as taking photos, measuring water quality, etc.

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