The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) published a new proposal on the Environmental and Regulatory Registries of Ontario regarding the implementation of online staking and modernized mining lands administration in Ontario (Nov 29, 2013 – Jan 31, 2014). The proposal entitled: A proposal for legislative amendments to the Mining Act discussed the next step of the ongoing Mining Act Modernization process (MAM), which aims to implement province-wide online staking of mining claims, and modernize the way mining lands are administered in Ontario (EBR #:012-0575).
The proposal focused on changing from the current ground-staking method in Northern Ontario and paper map-staking method in Southern Ontario to a province-wide online staking system, similar to that adopted in British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan and Quebec. Online staking would involve the use of an interactive map and a pre-defined provincial grid based on a coordinate system, which clients would use to select cells, register and administer mining claims through an integrated, online Mining Lands Administration system.
Clear rules: To implement the proposed changes, MNDM explained that necessary rules and processes for transition and conversion from the current ground based system would be developed and, where appropriate, addressed in the Mining Act and its regulations. For example, MNDM proposed that legacy claims would be digitized and plotted on the grid based on their GPS location or the best information available to MNDM; and noted that a ground claim location must be established prior to delineation and conversion to a cell-based claim.
Conversion: from a legacy claim to a cell-based claim
The proposal stated that “conversion from a legacy claim to a cell claim would be encouraged but it would be voluntary.” The statement reflected MNDM’s initial position or starting point on conversion, which has since evolved to take full consideration of Ontario’s complex claim boundaries and lessons learned from other jurisdictions.
MNDM also explained that establishing a clear set of rules and ensuring certainty of tenure at the end of the process would be key principles in the conversion. To that end, MNDM continued to: analyze the proposed conversion strategy for existing mining claims, evaluate lessons learned from the conversion processes adopted by other jurisdictions, and engage with key stakeholders.
The analysis pointed towards two broad approaches to conversion: a fully voluntary conversion process undertaken by claim holders over an extended period of time; or a one-time, province wide conversion process undertaken by MNDM, with input and direction from claim holders. MNDM further evaluated the two approaches against the following key principles guiding the proposed implementation of MAM next steps.
Key Principles of Ontario Mining Lands Tenure System
- Encourage prospecting, staking and exploration for the development of mineral resources; promote exploration of mining lands for minerals therein
- Ensure security of tenure
- Fair, equitable, and competitive access to mining lands
- Flexible and simple, requiring a minimum of administration
- Legal certainty
These key principles are endorsed by advisory groups composed of individuals representing a wide spectrum of industry and other stakeholders.
Updated Proposal: Upon careful review and consideration of the analysis and lessons learned from other jurisdictions, MNDM proposes that a province-wide one time conversion of legacy claims is more suitable to Ontario, as it would be more consistent with the five key principles of Ontario’s mining lands tenure system.
Proposed Conversion Strategy –simplified steps
- Claim Map Updating: transition period in which MNDM clarifies and reconciles claim boundaries to create a more accurate map of existing mining claims based on GPS coordinates and other information provided by the claim holders; Claim holders would see how their existing claims would line up with the provincial grid.
- Delineation: The point at which the legacy claim would be legally where it is shown on the provincial grid; described by the corner coordinates, not by a post on the ground. Claim holders would know the exact boundaries and the cells to which their legacy claims would be converted.
- Conversion: MNDM would implement conversion, taking into account claim holders’ input and in a controlled and fair environment, legacy claims would become cell-based claims. Tenure information for legacy claims, including the claim abstract, due dates/anniversary date, matters recorded on the abstract and the legacy claim fabric would be preserved and accessible.
- Notifications: Claim holders would be notified of the conversion and provided with a precise description of the cell-based claim and its boundaries as well as sufficient time and clear rules for claim maintenance and management (eg. Assessment work credit distribution). MNDM would notify surface rights owners and Aboriginal communities on the claim holder’s behalf - as appropriate.
Benefits of the proposed conversion strategy: Voluntary conversion may lead to less certainty of tenure; would result in a less efficient mining lands administration, and uncertain completion date for the conversion process. The proposed conversion process would provide: a) more enhanced certainty of tenure/claim boundaries and b) more efficient and effective administration of mining lands.
a) Enhanced Certainty:
- Areas and rights previously held by a legacy claim would be preserved,
- Claim holders would know the precise location of their claims,
- Conversion would take place in an unbiased and controlled environment by MNDM,
- One time conversion would provide better data integrity,
- Claim holders would avoid an ongoing boundary conflict and dispute resolution process,
- Less vulnerability to speculative and nuisance staking of mining lands.
b) Efficient and Effective Administration:
- One System - one set of rules would apply to all mining claims in the province as all mining claims would be moved into the modernized system,
- Reduced administrative costs related to separate transactions and different processes for unconverted claims,
- All claims would be managed in the same IT environment; this would avoid the need for a hybrid system to accommodate unconverted claims,
- Equitable access to a simpler, more integrated, and more cost effective Mining Lands Administration System,
- Claim holders would avoid burdens (costs, resource etc) required to undertake conversion; MNDM would undertake implementation of the conversion strategy,
- There would be no need to build and maintain a complex conversion tool,
- Claim holders would have the opportunity to reconfigure mining claims based on their business and land management needs.
* Mining claims that are staked by methods of ground-staking or paper map-staking