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Ontario's auditor general slams province on mining development

The provincial Ministry of Northern Development and Mines is not encouraging mining developments quickly enough, Ontario's auditor general says.

Northern Development Minister Michael Gravelle says report 'certainly has given us a lot to consider'

Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk provided numerous criticisms of the government's handling of the mining file. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

In an annual auditor general's report that contained a litany of tough criticisms of Ontario's Liberal government, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines did not escape the spotlight.

Bonnie Lysyk said in her report Wednesday that the ministry is not encouraging mining developments quickly enough, noting that Ontario is ranked ninth out of 10 provinces for attracting exploration investment in Canada.

"The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines has not been effectively encouraging timely mining development in the province, even though Ontario has a significantly lower tax rate on mining than the national average," the report says.

Lysyk also outlined several other criticisms:

  • The ministry's marketing strategies "may be ineffective," the report says.
  • The ministry is slow to make geosciences information available to the mining industry.
  • There is a lack of clarity on the duty to consult with aboriginal communities, which slows investment.
  • There has been little infrastructure development of the Ring of Fire and no minerals extracted yet.
  • Mine-closure plans lack sufficient technical review.
  • Mining-company financial assurances may be insufficient to cover mine close-outs.
  • The ministry lacks estimates for abandoned mine cleanup costs, and does few inspections or follow-up on abandoned mines.
  • Ontario has collected very little in royalties from the De Beers Canada Victor mine, the province's only diamond mine.

Northern Development and Mines Minister Michael Gravelle said the report "certainly has given us a lot to consider as we work to continue to ensure that Ontario is the global leader in mining."

He says he takes the report "pretty darn seriously" and says the revised mineral development strategy his department is working on will include changes that reflect on some of Lysyk's recommendations.

Hints at incentives

Gravelle hinted earlier this week that there may be exploration incentives in the new strategy, which will be released before the end of the year.

He also says he's working on developing a new relationship with the federal government to move ahead with the Ring of Fire. 

"I'm looking forward to having a, perhaps, very different relationship than we had with the past [federal] government, which I think will be crucial," he said. 

Columnist Stan Sudol, who operates the website republicofmining.com, says the government's poor record of attracting investment doesn't reflect well on the ministry.

He points to delays constructing a road to the Ring of Fire.

"If we can't seem to get our act together on a very simple infrastructure project like this, it reflects badly not only on the mining industry," he said. "It just reflects badly on the province."

The president of the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, Rod Thomas, says with no investment no new mines will be found.
    
"The province itself is doing a great job in terms of providing geological data and of course they have revised the mining act, but as an industry and as a province I don't think we're doing a good job at finding new deposits," he said.

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