Rights groups warn changes risk hurting environment, Indigenous communities
Naimul Karim, Financial Post
Ontario’s minister of mines defended legislative proposals that would shorten the time required to build a mine in the province, dismissing charges from some rights groups that Premier Doug Ford risks hurting the environment and Indigenous communities.
“Not at all,” George Pirie said March 3 when asked if his amendments would hurt the environment. “This is improving how the Ministry of Mines operates,” he said. “There’s no change in environmental regulations and there’s no change to the Crown’s duty to consult.”
The Ford government says it currently takes 15 to 20 years to build a mine in Ontario, risking the province’s ability to take full advantage of a global mining boom sparked by the transition to electric vehicles and the willingness of the United States, the European Union, Canada and other rich democracies to spend heavily to weaken China’s dominance of the supply of critical minerals.
Pirie’s amendments would give him more power to make decisions linked to the permits required by mining companies to explore deposits and build mines.
Jamie Kneen, who co-leads operations at MiningWatch Canada, a non-profit watchdog, said the changes were “asking for trouble” and “hugely” risky.
“It’s a real step backwards in terms of environment and public safety,” Kneen said. “There’s a reason that all of these safeguards were put in place over the years because we experienced these problems and had to find ways to get around them.”
Kneen added that the “other really big missing element” was the absence of public or Indigenous engagement.
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