By Liam Casey
An organization supporting all First Nations in Ontario is calling on the province to implement a one-year moratorium on staking mining claims.
The Chiefs of Ontario says there has been a 30-per-cent increase in such claims on their territories over the past year.
The organization says there have been more than 35,000 claims since May alone.
Ontario Regional Chief Glen Hare says the sheer number of claims outstrips First Nations’ abilities to respond to them.
The organization says the switch to virtual stake-claiming in 2018 has exponentially increased the number of claims to a point where there are now more than 160,000 claims in total on their territories.
A spokesman for Greg Rickford, the province’s minister of Indigenous affairs, says Ontario meets its obligations to consult on all resource projects and the Aboriginal Participation Fund supports First Nations throughout the consultation process.
Hare wrote in a statement that a 365-day moratorium is necessary “as it will give First Nations communities the time that is required to assess the impacts of the MLAS (Mining Lands Administration System), the effects of the mine claims currently being staked, as well as develop a process whereby meaningful and fulsome engagement and consultation can be integrated into the MLAS processes.”
Prospectors can stake mining claims online for a nominal fee and are not required to engage or consult with First Nations even on their traditional territories.
Premier Doug Ford’s government has been bullish on mining northern Ontario as it tries to develop an end-to-end manufacturing chain for electric vehicle batteries.
Vast volumes of critical minerals such as nickel and lithium will be needed for a Stellantis battery plant set to become operational next year in Windsor, Ont., and Volkswagen’s PowerCo gigafactory set to open in 2027.
Northern Ontario’s Ring of Fire region has become a flashpoint over the issue.
Two First Nations are on board with a plan to build roads into the 5,000-square-kilometre region – which is 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, Ont. – that will connect to the provincial highway system.
Ring of Fire Metals, owned by Australian mining giant Wyloo, wants to build a mine in the region.
Several other First Nations in the area oppose that development without their prior consent.