Ontario transitions to online staking April 10th
Time-honoured practice of physically staking claims comes to an end
The time-honoured practice of physically staking mining claims in Ontario came to an end on January 8th, and beginning April 10th, mining claims in the province will only be able to be ‘staked’ online. In the interval, claim staking has been suspended to give staff at the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines sufficient time to prepare for the transition.
In Canada, Quebec was the first province to introduce online staking in 1999, followed by British Columbia, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, leaving Ontario, the country’s most important mining jurisdiction, trailing the pack along with Manitoba and Nunavut, both of which are in the process of going digital.
According to Roy Denomme, MNDM’s director of Mining Act modernization, online staking “creates a lot of efficiencies for us internally, but also for the client.
“We’re moving from almost an entirely paper-based system, so when documents are filed, they’re filed in hard copy, they’re stamped, they’re given to a clerk, they’re put in a pile and processed one at a time.”
The online process facilitates accuracy and alerts users to missing information.
For example, “if you’re transferring your claim from yourself to another company, there’s a drop down list so you’re not misspelling the name of the company,” noted Denomme.
“We’re also eliminating the whole process of going out in the field to stake a claim,” doing away with the associated costs of transportation, food, accommodation, the hiring of assistants and the maintenance of equipment.
Online staking eliminates an important source of revenue for prospectors who staked claims the old-fashioned way for exploration and mining companies, but it also levels the playing field, said Denomme.
“If I’m a prospector in Kirkland Lake but in my research I find a little property in Kenora (1,350 kilometres away) that has some promise, I don’t have to hop in a car or fly there, or incur all the costs associated with that. I can just sit at my computer and register that claim. Historically, prospectors have been totally out of the game in areas like the Ring of Fire, which are inaccessible (except by aircraft).”
Online staking will also facilitate the duty to consult with Indigenous communities.
“With the new system, as soon as a mining claim is registered, notification goes out to all of the Indigenous communities that could be impacted by that claim…on the flip side, the claim holder will receive notification identifying the impacted Indigenous communities, along with their contact information.”
Historically, it could take weeks, perhaps even months for a staked claim to be recorded on the Ministry’s website, potentially sending prospectors into the bush only to find that the land has already been staked.
That can’t happen with online staking, said Denomme.
With the new system, each of the 5.2 million cells that the province is divided into is coloured green, yellow or red. Green indicates that the cell is available for staking, yellow indicates that it’s available with some restrictions and red indicates that it’s taken or can’t be staked.
“As soon as you click on a number of green coloured cells, they’re locked out from anyone else acquiring them. It’s just like buying tickets for a concert.”
Prospectors will still have opportunities to generate revenue from claim staking, said Denomme, because it will still be necessary to have a prospector’s licence to use the new system, and in order to qualify for a prospector’s licence, it will still be necessary to complete the online Mining Act Awareness program.
“These two things may be a deterrent for companies coming into the province to register claims for themselves, so they may be more inclined to phone a local prospector to do it for them.”
Additionally, there is a maximum number of claims or cells that can be acquired in one session, “ensuring that prospectors and junior mining companies can also get a piece of the pie.”
Converting some 40,000 claims to the new cell structure will change claim boundaries, but no one will lose land, said Denomme.
“If you have a claim that takes in three-quarters of a cell, we’ll expand that so you incorporate the whole cell, so some land packages will increase in size, but the additions will be minor.”
Accommodations will also be made in cases where a claim holder has adjacent claims on which there are option agreements with different companies. Claim holders can direct the Ministry to keep the claims separate by submitting a boundary claim report during the conversion period.
Mining claim registration is only one component of the Ministry’s new Mining Lands Administration System, which brings together eight previously separate systems that also allowed for the distribution of assessment credits, the filing of exploration plans and permit applications and the notification process to Indigenous communities and clients.
“With eight separate systems, if someone’s address or email changed, we had to change it eight times. Now we only have to change it once,” said Denomme.
“I am confident that we are going to have a very robust system,” he added. “We have some of the most incredible, knowledgeable land management people in the world at MNDM.” And the company that performed the software development – Pacific GeoTech Systems Ltd. – also built the online systems for British Columbia and several other jurisdictions in Canada.