TORONTO (Reuters) - Ontario introduced on Thursday a long-awaited update to a 136-year-old law governing mining in the province, including measures aimed at increasing native communities’ control over their land, and limits on mineral rights on private property.
Pressure for changes to the act increased last year after six native Indians in a northern Ontario community were jailed for blocking mining exploration on their traditional land.
In a statement, the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, which oversees the C$10 billion ($8.3 billion) industry, said the act would expressly recognize aboriginal and treaty rights, and create a dispute resolution process for conflicts.
It would also allow for withdrawing significant aboriginal cultural sites from claim staking and include provisions to restrict prospecting and exploring.
Mining laws in Ontario -- the country’s busiest mining region -- were originally written in an era when the country’s economic success was seen to depend on mineral exploitation, and thus put little emphasis on landowners rights.
The revisions will also address rights of landowners who do not hold mineral rights on their lands.
In populous southern Ontario, the new rules will withdraw mining rights on privately held land, apart from on existing claims and leases.
In the northern part of the province, which constitutes about 90 percent of the region and is largely wilderness, private landowners will be able to apply for withdrawing mining rights, although the mineral potential of the land will be considered in making such a decision.
Reporting by Cameron French