New mines minister has to 'sort out land rights'
Mining observers in northern Ontario say ministry and the minister must work with First Nations
As the newly-minted Liberal party leader Kathleen Wynne names her cabinet Monday, observers with an eye on northern Ontario’s resource sector will be watching with interest.
The director of conservation planning for CPAWS Wildlands League said she'd like to see the new Minister of Mines and Northern Development to take a wider view.
"Not only do you need to obviously support the mining industry, but you also need to make sure you are supporting Ontarians that are interacting with the mining industry," said Anna Baggio, who noted there's a tendency for mining ministers to be cheerleaders for industry.
"You need to be also looking out for the public interest."
Baggio added decisions made by the new minister on the Ring of Fire will have wide-ranging implications for generations to come.
Garry Clark, the executive director of the Ontario Prospectors Association, agreed, saying the first order of business will be to sort out land rights in the north.
"We need to be able to access land and we want to do it in the most amicable way," he said.
"In order to do that, the ministry and the minister need to work with First Nations."
The pair also agreed that it doesn't matter where a mining minister comes from — as long as the person is willing to listen and learn.
"We have some really big decisions we have to make around the Ring of Fire," Baggio said.
"Big decisions that are … the kinds of decisions you make once in a century or once in a millennium."
Former mining minister Rick Bartolucci announced his retirement last week in his Sudbury riding.