Last week the Supreme Court of Canada decided that it would not challenge a Yukon court’s ruling that current land-staking practices defy the constitution.
The final legal decision has the industry riled up as it assesses what this means for the mining sector. By the looks of it, the ruling could change the way miners operate across Canada.
The Supreme Court last week rejected an appeal by the Yukon government over a lower court’s ruling that Class 1 mineral exploration programs must “consult with” and “accommodate” the Ross River Dena Council—a first nation—before allowing exploration to take place. The provision will amend the territory’s quartz and placer mining acts.
Most Canadian jurisdictions operate under a “free entry” system whereby companies can acquire exploration rights by ground-staking—a process which requires no advance government approval.
Last year the Yukon Court of Appeal ruled that “free entry was incompatible with the Crown’s duty to consult aboriginal people before making rights to Crown land available,” explains Barry Barton, an internationally recognized expert in mining law and author of Canadian Law of Mining.
The Supreme Court’s decision has major implications for nearly all Canadian provinces and territories—they will have to amend their mining acts, Barton says.
The Western University law professor adds that it is “less clear” what kinds of changes are necessary because the court did not specify which amendments would be acceptable.
What we can be sure of is a busy period of policy making and law reform under the shadow of the courts’ requirement that the law conform to constitutional requirements, says Barton.
While companies and investors work on figuring out what this means for projects, a first nation leader has come out to calm the storm, stating that he is “not against mining,” CBC news reports.
Ross River Dena Council chief Brian Ladue spoke with Yukon’s Chamber of Mines recently and clarified that the council “would support responsible mining… where things are done properly.”
Ladue says first nations should be involved from the beginning and reap the benefits of mineral extraction.
Without proper consultation of aboriginal groups, mining projects could trample on traditional land use projects such as hunting and harvesting, Ladue explained. He argues that under the old laws, the council had no idea what was happening on its land.
Reprinted by permission of Mining.com