Even though Ontario's mining sector has been in a downturn for the past two years, mining is still big business. Ontario’s mining sector directly employs 26,000 people and supports 41,000 more jobs within the mining service and supply industries. The sector made $11B in 2014 and invested $1.3B back into the province.
Mining has recently moved into Ontario's Far North. This remote region contains globally significant ecosystems and is home to many species at risk, including caribou, wolverine, polar bears and lake sturgeon. Mines in the Far North will require new roads and power sources to be viable and this will open up the region beyond just the mines themselves.
New industrial development, together with climate change, will create direct and cumulative impacts on fish, wildlife and people in the Far North. These include habitat loss and fragmentation, impacts to subsistence use (e.g., hunting, fishing, trapping, medicines), and diminished ecosystem services. Project-specific regulations and approvals under environmental assessment and community-based land use plans are too narrow and piecemeal to account for anticipated cumulative social and ecological effects of multiple mines and new all-weather roads.
To better understand how development in the Far North affects wildlife, ecosystems, and people, we conducted surveys for fish, caribou and wolverine. We've also developed cumulative effects models to consider how future mining and new infrastructure may impact wildlife and their habitats. WCS Canada provides scientific review and public comments on permits for exploration and environmental assessments. Finally, we have provided expert testimony and advice to several First Nations engaged with mineral exploration and mining companies.
Recently, Ontario's Ministry of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) invited input from industry, Indigenous peoples, and the general public on the renewal of Ontario's Mineral Development Strategy (MDS) to help guide future development and management of mineral resources in Ontario. When the strategy was developed nine years ago, Ontario's mining sector was on an upswing. The current MDS needs to consider these inevitable downturns and with this in mind, we offered four recommendations:
The state of mining and mineral exploration in Ontario's Far North including mining claims (as of 2015), withdrawals from staking, advanced mineral exploration projects, and producing mines.
© WCS Canada / Meg Southee
Photo credits: Banner | William Halliday © WCS Canada