Provincial legislation aimed at ramping up the number of mines operating in Ontario passed as expected Wednesday, minus amendments the bill’s critics said would help address Indigenous and environmental concerns.

Bill 71, known as the Building More Mines Act, was a main goal of Mines Minister George Pirie, who has claimed that getting a mine approved under the current system of checks and balances takes too long.

Pirie, a former senior mining executive and Timmins mayor, said the legislation was needed to accelerate production of minerals like lithium and nickel, required for the manufacture of battery-powered cars and trucks.

“Our government has made it clear that it cannot take 15 years to build a mine if we are going to secure the critical minerals we need,” Pirie said in a statement following the bill’s passage.

Ontario mines account for about 20 per cent of Canada’s total mineral production.

Pirie scoffed at the NDP and Liberal MPPs who voted against the Conservative’s bill, saying they are against “economic prosperity in their own Northern ridings.”

The NDP said it’s not against mining.

The party’s mining-portfolio critic, Guy Bourgouin, said 20 motions his party introduced would have “helped fix the massive problems in this bill, especially with respect to First Nations rights.”

“The government voted down every single one,” noted Bourgouin (Mushkegowuk-James Bay).

Earlier this spring, fellow NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa joined delegations of First Nation chiefs who accused the province of failing to address obstacles to smooth relations between remote Indigenous communities and mining companies.

A particular sore point is the so-called free entry system, which permits exploration companies to stake claims on Indigenous traditional lands without their prior knowledge.

“Free, prior, and informed consent from the affected First Nations, and environmental protections, are cornerstones to the success of any Ontario mining project,” said Mamakwa (Kiiwetinoong).

“Unfortunately, Bill 71 weakened environmental protections and ignored the need for free, prior, and informed consent.”

According to the Ontario Mining Association, provincial mines provided nearly 30,000 direct jobs in 2021, paying out $3.7 billion in salaries for workers.