Posted on January 13, 2010 (updated: January 13, 2010)

Groups assail Ontario mining loophole

A coalition of environmental groups filed a complaint under Ontario’s Environmental Bill of Rights today, calling for reforms to provincial laws that allow potentially destructive mining proposals to be approved – leading to the destruction of pristine wilderness areas and causing serious air and water pollution problems in the province.

“The mining industry is enjoying an extended holiday from comprehensive environmental assessments in Ontario,” said Sierra Legal Lawyer Justin Duncan. “Over three years ago, Ontario exempted mining projects from scrutiny under the provincial Environmental Assessment Act and has still not come up with an alternative process for considering their environmental impacts.”

Instead of taking a thorough look at each mine proposal and carefully examining its potential impact on the environment, mining projects are slipping through the regulatory cracks and are being approved, the groups contend.

Sierra Legal filed the formal EBR Request for Review on behalf of MiningWatch Canada and CPAWS -Wildlands League. The groups are calling on the province to review the need for regulatory and policy reform related to the assessment of the environmental impacts of mining projects under the provincial Mining Act and Environmental Assessment Act.

In the Request for Review, the groups point to new evidence concerning the DeBeers’ Victor Diamond mine, recent findings from the Provincial Auditor General, and concerns raised by First Nations regarding the free-entry system as evidence of how the current system is failing to protect Ontario’s environment and how the process ought to be improved.

“The environmental assessment system for mine proposals in Ontario is like buying a used car based solely on a few kicks at the tires and a quick peak under the hood,” said Anna Baggio, Director Conservation Land Use Planning, CPAWS Wildlands League. “What is needed is a full examination of the cumulative impact these massive projects will have on the air, the water, the land – the entire ecosystem.”

The groups are calling on the province to review the existing regulatory and policy regime, with a view to ensuring that comprehensive land use planning legislation for the northern boreal is enacted and implemented before any further development. They are also recommending that any future environmental assessments take into account the ecological footprint for the entire mining project prior to approval.

“Ontario continues to approve huge mining operations in the province without properly assessing the potential harm and without properly consulting First Nations,” said Joan Kuyek of MiningWatch Canada.

“Once again we demand that government and industry heed the urgent call from First Nations communities for a moratorium on development in Ontario’s North. Comprehensive land use planning must precede development. This is the only fair and equitable way to ensure resource certainty and overall stability in the far north.”

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