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Canadian Supreme Court Ruling May Slow Mining in Canada

The Canadian Supreme Court has upheld a ruling, last week, by a lower appeals court in the Yukon territory that current land-staking practices are unconstitutional. This case came before the court, as prospectors prepared class 1 mineral inspections on First Nation land. Before – with the Quartz Mining Act – free reign was given to exploration. Now the court has ruled permission must be granted before exploration can even begin, rejecting the appeal of the Yukon Government. The territorial government has agreed that it will consult the Ross River Dena First Nation before exploration can take place.

This is bad news for an already natural resource reliant economy. The Canadian Supreme Court ruling will lead to scarring amendments through the provinces and territories of Canada. The majority of the rich mineral deposits such as nickel are located on the Canadian Shield. This nutrient-deficient land is often well north of major Canadian cities – in isolated communities run by First Nations. As Ottawa continues a more literal recognition of treaties with tribes, expect the initial exploration stages of mining to take that much longer.

Contrary to popular belief, First Nations are not necessarily against mining. Although they live in some of the most sordidness conditions – many considered even third-world – they are looking for “responsible mining.” In communities where the unemployment rate can exceed 70%, mining could prove a promising economic opportunity. Little has changed for the rights of First Nations until more concrete local changes are in place. The lone exception is that the chiefs hold more say in the discussion than they had before.


According to the Mining Industry Human Resource Council, Canada is expected to need upwards of 150,000 to 200,000 mine-related workers by 2023. With a quarter of the employed miners in Canada nearing retirement in the next ten years, Canadian mining companies will have to continue to look elsewhere for labor. Southeast Asia and African immigrants will continue to make-up a substantial number of labor immigrants.

The outcome may ultimately create a local economy burgeoning around the mine, like that of Thompson, Manitoba. Once a vacant land in the 1950’s, the mine has brought government, multinational chains and a community, not as reliant on mining. Although the city of 10,000 still has many of the problems First Nations reserves do, building up the community has led to a better economic outlook for many.

How will this effect the future of mining in Canada? The next 5-10 years could be prove to be utterly confusing. Because specifics were not put in place, and the Supreme Courts ruling was left rather vague, provinces and territories are likely to produce their own interpretation. Some will prove slower than others. The Yukon Government has begun the process of soliciting feedback on resolutions to prospecting

Existing mining operations or prearranged settlements will not be compromised. Coupled with the labor shortage, Canadian mining companies are likely to continue their exploration in the southern hemisphere but also the United States where recent acquisitions like the mines in Liberia and Nevada have proven fruitful.

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