An amendment to Ontario Regulation 263/02 (Exploration Licences, Production and Storage Leases for Oil and Gas in Ontario) is proposed to bring the regulation into alignment with prior changes to Part IV of the Mining Act.
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) administers Crown oil and natural gas rights under Part IV of the Mining Act and Ontario Regulation 263/02. Together, Part IV and the regulation authorize MNRF to issue exploration licences and production leases for oil and natural gas development on Crown land in the province.
Prior to 2009, administration of these rights was shared by two ministries. The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) administered Crown oil and gas rights in the area south of the 51st parallel and north of the French River, Mattawa River, and Lake Nipissing. MNRF administered Crown oil and gas rights in all other parts of the province.
The ministries managed these resources using different processes and requirements. In 2009, changes to Part IV of the Mining Act streamlined this two-system approach. Administration was consolidated under MNRF, bringing the management of all Crown oil and gas resources in the province under Part IV of the Mining Act. This change was one of many that occurred as part of MNDM’s Mining Act modernization effort. Ontario Regulation 263/02 was not changed at that time.
Section 2(1) of Ontario Regulation 263/02 states that the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry may issue exploration licences for Crown land north of the 51st parallel and south and east of the French River, Mattawa River and Lake Nipissing – those areas administered by MNRF before 2009. It does not include the area transferred from MNDM to MNRF in 2009, although it was intended that MNRF would be the ministry responsible for authorizing oil or gas exploration in that area. Therefore a change is proposed to section 2(1) to clarify that MNRF may issue exploration licences for any Crown lands in the province, including in the transferred area. This change will not impact how the Ministry issues exploration licences; it does clarify where they can be issued.
Most of the area that transferred to MNRF in 2009 is comprised of the Canadian Shield, which has no oil or gas potential. Only a small portion of the transferred area, in the northeast, has any potential for oil or gas resources. Whether there is an economically producible resource in that area is unknown.
The proposed amendment will not affect the application of the Far North Act. Under the Far North Act, most development is prohibited from proceeding before a community based land use plan is in effect, unless an exception or exemption applies.