Is Ontario compounding the challenges faced by explorers and miners?
by Greg Klein
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Working in Ontario has become a competitive disadvantage, according to at least one CEO. Explorers have already expressed widespread disenchantment with new mining regulations that took full effect last April. Then Cliffs Natural Resources partly blamed government intransigence for the company’s decision to suspend its Ring of Fire chromite project. Now Northern Graphite TSXV:NGC CEO Gregory Bowes has slammed the province’s Ministry of Northern Development and Mines for what he says are unaccountable delays.
In a July 8 news release, Bowes said his company submitted a mine closure plan for its Bissett Creek project to the ministry on October 31, 2012. “This ‘45-day approval process’ has been ongoing for over seven months despite Bissett Creek being a relatively benign operation with no major environmental issues. It has strong community support and first nation consultations have been positive and constructive,” the news release stated.
According to the company, the ministry completed its review but must issue a mining lease before it can approve the project. The company applied for the lease in October 2011. The following July, the company stated, it was ordered to “redo” a government survey. “The survey was submitted to the surveyor general’s office in November 2012 for a 30-day approval process but a mining lease has still not been issued. The company believes approval is imminent but cannot provide further guidance and suggests any interested parties contact the MNDM directly.”
When ResourceClips.com asked Bowes what’s going on, he responded, “Nothing’s going on. That’s the problem. I guess the simplest way to explain it is that the ministry just can’t deal with permitting in a timely fashion. They advertise a 45-day process and they advertise that it’s a one-window approach, in other words we just deal with the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, and they’re responsible for dealing with all the other ministries and co-ordinating things. And neither is true.”
He adds, “We’re pretty much on our own to deal with other ministries and no one can stick to timelines, they don’t deal with issues, they don’t return phone calls.”
Anyone who took up Bowes’ suggestion to contact the MNDM directly might have got the same wordy but vague-to-meaningless e-mail that a ministry spokesperson sent ResourceClips.com. In response to a second phone call and a written list of questions, the ministry sent a second e-mail containing more feel-good fluff, but this time directed inquiries about the survey to Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources.
A spokesperson for Minister of Natural Resources David Orazietti told ResourceClips.com a request for the mining lease was received by the Crown land registry on July 9, 2013, and processing will likely take about a month. By press time she was unable to track information about the survey document Northern said was submitted in November.
Northern’s news release stated it is “competing with companies in Quebec, Europe, Africa and Australia to build the first new Western graphite mine in over 20 years. Being first to market is very important but the company is at a competitive disadvantage due to the regulatory process in Ontario which continues to damage the province’s reputation as a place to invest and is potentially depriving it of investment, jobs and tax revenues.”
As Bowes explains to ResourceClips.com, “Industrial minerals are smaller, more specialty markets. It’s not like gold where we can use two, three or four more mines and the market will absorb it. In this market there might only be room for one new mine and there might only be room for a couple of new mines over the next few years…. So timing is very important.”
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