Ontario plans to ease applications to harvest tailings, defer up-front environmental assurance payments and broaden mine-closure plans, according to new legislation proposed on Thursday.
The ruling Conservatives under Premier Doug Ford say the changes will attract more investment to the province that in 2021 produced minerals valued at more than $11.1 billion, about a fifth of Canada’s output. Of particular concern is boosting the supply of critical minerals feeding the transformation to electric vehicles at key auto plants from Oshawa to Windsor.
“It shouldn’t take 15 years to open a mine,” provincial Minister of Mines George Pirie said in a news release on Thursday. “This process is too time consuming and costly, leading to project delays and lost opportunities. We need to get building.”
The Building More Mines Act proposed by Ford’s government is expected to easily pass. After the latest election last June, the Tories hold a majority with 83 of the legislature’s 124 seats. The opposition NDP holds 30.
The announcement, which comes on the eve of the world’s largest mining conference, the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada annual gathering in Toronto running from Friday to Wednesday, outlines several areas to speed project applications.
New rules would make it easier for companies to get permits to recover minerals from mine tailings and waste, while the province wants to hire more experts to approve mine closure plans. Certain closure elements could be deferred under the proposals and the province would be more flexible in approving rehabilitation plans, it said.
The proposed legislation would also create more options for companies to pay assurance against potential environmental claims instead of up-front, such as staggering them in line with a project’s construction schedule.
An email and call seeking comment from MPP Michael Mantha, the NDP critic on the Mines ministry, were not immediately answered on Thursday.
More details on the proposed legislation will be released soon, a spokesman for Minister Pirie said by email.
Some of the industry’s largest players lined up in the government statement to salute the initiative.
Newmont Mining (NYSE: NEM; TSX: NGT), the world’s biggest gold miner by output, operates its Musselwhite and Porcupine mines in the province. Bernard Wessels, regional senior vice-president for North America, said the company appreciated the proposed legislation’s clarity on shutting mines “while upholding the rigorous environmental standards that the Canadian mining sector is known for.”
The Mining Act’s modernization “will enable the province and industry to remain at the forefront of the sustainable production of critical minerals that are essential for the global energy transition that is underway,” said Alfredo Santana, chief operating officer of Vale’s (NYSE: VALE) North Atlantic base metal operations.
“Glencore (LSE: GLEN) is committed to responsibly source the commodities that advance everyday life,” said Peter Xavier, vice president of the Swiss company’s Sudbury nickel operations. “The improvement of processes within the ministry of Mines will strengthen our Ontario operations and facilitate their expansion.”