Ontario and Abandoned Mines

Ontario's Ministry of Northern Development and Mines announced in 1999 a $27 million commitment to an abandoned mines rehabilitation program, with an emphasis on "eliminating risks to public safety" through the capping of abandoned mine shafts, removal of mine structures, and backfilling pits and trenches. To date, approximately $5 million has been spent on remediation of physical hazards, and $9 million has been spent or committed to the first phases of environmental clean-up at the Kam Kotia mine site near Timmins.

While the abandoned mines program is a very positive development, its overall benefit has been offset by the changes to mining legislation over the last half decade, which have weakened requirements around mine closure. In particular, changes have been instituted to replace the requirement for real financial assurances to cover closure and post-closure costs with financial means tests for some companies. There is no public or independent review of the amount of money that is to be set aside in closure bonds, companies are not required to disclose the amount of funds they have set aside for mine close-out, and the information is not available through the access to information law. Ministry staff no longer review and approve closure plans -- they 'accept' plans that have been prepared and approved by the companies -- but companies can now request an "exit ticket" which allows them to hand mined-out properties back to the Crown, after having met their closure plan requirements.