Indigenous Resistance to Mining: Ontario First Nations Call for Year-Long Moratorium on Mining Claims
The Chiefs of Ontario have called for a year-long pause on all mining claims on their territories in the face of rampant mining speculation. Still: the province keeps issuing mining tenures without the consent of 133 First Nations.
The Ontario provincial government began using an online system for staking mineral claims in 2018, allowing individuals and mining companies to stake claims for $50 without a First Nations’ consent. The Chiefs of Ontario call this “Invisible Virtual Mining.”
Who Has Rights?
Anyone staking a claim in Ontario will automatically receive land rights to the area, taking away a First Nation’s ability to designate lands as reserve land or enshrine Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs). Prospective miners can also apply for exploratory permits when they have a claim, giving them the right to cut trees, dig into the ground with bulldozers and excavators, and to abandon sites with little remediation of the land: all without consulting or even notifying First Nations on whose lands all this is happening.
First Nations are only able to submit comments within a 30 day period after the claim is staked. However, First Nations are inundated with bureaucracy — beyond minings claims, they have to respond to forestry, hydroelectric, and hundreds of other consultation requests. For example, Chief Russell Wesley from Cat Lake First Nation sometimes receives 20 mining claims in a single day. Asubpeeschoseewagong Anishinabek (Grassy Narrows First Nation) has recorded 6,000 mining claims on its territory in the past six years, averaging three claims a day. 30 days is too short a review period.
If this sounds familiar to you, you’re likely thinking of Gitxaała Nation. British Columbia has a similar mineral claims system as Ontario. Gitxaała, thanks to over $500,000 of crowdfunded support, won a landmark legal case that forces B.C. to create a new framework to properly consult First Nations when staking a mining claim. The Chiefs of Ontario said Gitxaała Nation’s case, “sets an important precedent.”
There are many ways First Nations in Ontario were resisting this mass wave of mining claims on their territory prior to the call for a year-long pause. Six First Nations are a part of the Land Defence Alliance (LDA) to stop unsustainable mining on their territories. The LDA held a massive 6,000 person rally in Toronto last September to demand Doug Ford meet with the LDA to come to a resolution over the unreasonable wave of mining claims on their lands. Ford never showed up.
Ontario is continually failing to work with First Nations when it comes to mining. Let’s be clear: Ontario First Nations are not completely opposing mining — they just want Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) over where and how mining occurs on their lands. Ontario First Nations want their inherent jurisdiction to be recognized by Ontario and Canada to get FPIC enshrined within all resource development processes. This concern is at the heart of the Treaty No. 9 “Breathing Lands” case.
Let the Land Breathe
RAVEN is supporting 10 First Nations who are leading the Treaty No. 9 legal case. They are going to court to prove that, in the oral version of the Treaty, they were assured that they could use their lands as they always had. The Crown, on the other hand, interprets the Treaty as a surrender of lands. A win in court will give First Nations in Treaty 9 greater decision-making authority over who, where, and when mining — as well as all other resource extraction — occurs on their territories.
What Can We Do In A Year?
A year-long pause on all mining claims would give the Nations more time to properly consult their communities and develop plans to address future mining claims. Meanwhile, RAVEN is committed to raising $400,000 this year for the Breathing Lands campaign so the 10 First Nations leading the case can access justice. Please donate at raventrust.com/breathing-lands.