The changes to the Mining Act would allow prospectors to dig without asking permission
By Diego Flammini
Members of New Brunswick’s ag community are against the provincial government’s proposed changes to a piece of mining legislation.
The Higgs government introduced Bill 75, An Act to Amend the Mining Act, on Nov. 4, 2021. The bill passed its second reading in the legislature on Jan. 27.
The proposed changes would allow prospectors to access any property on which they’ve made a mineral rights claim and allow them to dig without receiving permission from or even notifying the landowner.
Prospectors are able to make mineral rights claims online.
In this case, digging means a prospector would be allowed to use to hand tools to take samples of either two kilograms or two litres of material, and those actions wouldn’t be considered land damage.
Groups oppose the changes because the amendments open up provincial farms to other potential risks.
“A prospector simply driving in fields, let alone tampering with soil and plants, can cause significant damage to the crops and livelihoods of farmers and create a biosecurity risk, reads an open letter signed by multiple organizations including the Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick, NB Cattle Producers, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and Dairy Farmers of New Brunswick.
The provincial government says the changes to the mining law provide transparency, so the landowner and prospectors know what’s happening on those pieces of land.
"The purpose of Bill 75 is to clarify the type of activities and in fact puts in place strict limitations so that both landowners and prospectors know what to expect," Jason Hoyt, a spokesperson for the ministry of natural resources, told CBC. "The amendment to the act would no longer consider digging and sampling land by hand, or with hand tools like augers and rock hammers, as 'actual damage.'”
The government’s opposition is calling for more consultations on the matter.
Ag and landowner groups were left in the dark about Bill 75 and need to be brought up to speed about what’s happening, said Rene Legacy, the Liberal natural resources critic.
“The Higgs Government has once again failed to properly consult key stakeholders. There is still plenty of time before the end of the session for the Minister to correct this by meeting with the groups that have asked to be heard,” Legacy said in a statement. “(Natural Resources) Minister (Mike) Holland needs to listen to important stakeholder concerns prior to bringing Bill 75 to Third Reading”