Comments regarding sites of Aboriginal cultural significance focussed on the potential size of sites, the criteria for identifying sites and the rules around imposing a surface restriction. Clarification was sought on level of documentation required to verify a site, the need to protect the nature of the significance of a site and its location (e.g. a buffer) and the impact on assessment work as well as application to leases.
The Mining Act Awareness Program was well received and fully supported by most respondents. Comments suggested the need to clarify the rules on how the program interacts with Plans and Permits requirements and ensure that the program is accessible not only to licensees (which is mandatory) but to everyone interested in early exploration in Ontario. It was also recommended that the content of the program include the perspective of First Nations and other users of Crown land.
All of the comments provided through the Environmental Registry were carefully considered by MNDM. Many had already been raised through the extensive consultation process launched in December 2009 and incorporated into the regulatory proposal.
Consistent with the responses received throughout the consultation process, the comments through the ER notably stressed the importance of Aboriginal cultural values and their protection. Other comments we received were related to the size of a withdrawal area, the need for funding assistance to map Aboriginal values at the community level, and particular concern for the complete protection of burial sites.
The size of an area that may be withdrawn has increased to 25 hectares to allow for polygons of 4, 9, 16 and 25 hectares. This standardization will allow a site to be better protected within a larger area of withdrawn land and without any identifiers as to the nature of the protection. An operational policy has been developed providing further guidance on how withdrawals and surface restrictions will be considered and the application process.
The Mining Act Awareness Program is available free of charge and publicly accessible. The content within Mining Act Awareness program has been enhanced to include additional information relating to First Nations and other users of Crown land.