Ontario mine tycoon’s licence fight could cost province millions

You can make a fortune mining in Canada. Just ask Asim Ahmed.

The former U.S. Marine caught up in a mining dispute along the Peace River in central Ontario has quietly amassed a fortune. Since 1991, the former farm labourer has poured more than $700m into a resource-rich tract south of Thunder Bay.

Ahmed has spent $40m building up the Asim Mining Company and his investment company, Strata Mining Inc. The 55-year-old entrepreneur is now in Toronto after receiving millions from his pending appeal to the Ontario court of appeal, one of the largest mining class action lawsuits in Canadian history. His bank account also boasts an impressive assortment of watches, furniture and gaudy prints.

Things started going south in 2011, when Ahmed spent $4m on 200 hectares of land along the Peace River in central Ontario. In 2012, the government granted a mining exploration licence. That was the end of the story, until this month, when Bannatyne resident Brett Wilson, a prominent mining industry figure and former vice-president of Vale Alcan, filed a statement of claim.

Wilson alleges that when the government suspended a mining exploration licence for his property in December 2011, Ahmad told his employees that he knew where it would eventually be reissued.

“According to Asim Ahmed, he had at his disposal the current map in the Official Gazette of the Province of Ontario and he expected to be able to receive that map,” reads the statement of claim. “Further, Asim Ahmed told the employee that he expected to be able to obtain a licence to reissue the mining exploration licence to Mr. Wilson’s Claim and that he was confident that he could get the licence that he needed to begin exploration of the Mining Claim.”

It’s a desperate blow to Anwar Ahmed and his business empire. While it’s common for governments to issue mineral exploration licences that don’t prevent them from licensing mining projects, Ontario’s legislature passed a law in 1985 to specifically prohibit the issuance of such licences in future with this provision.

In its submission to the Ontario court of appeal, the province claims that an updated map that it has used for decades cannot be used as evidence, despite the fact that it is no longer public and very old.

The province still held a mining exploration licence, but the mine it planned to mine was blocked from being built due to federal environmental laws. Without an active licence, the plan to mine in Ontario would never have gone ahead.

The provincial government’s own map clearly shows that there is a short strip of land that connects the area the mine was intended to develop to the other, larger district. That land is what Wilson is suing over. The map further explains the jurisdictional boundaries between Ontario and the Six Nations of the Grand River, where this area is located.

The new map is missing a crucial line connecting the Six Nations area to Ontario. Currently, the borders of a mining lease overlap Wilson’s proposed mine. The map also shows the presence of a historical mining area and indicates that there has been no mineral exploitation of the area in more than 150 years.

In their submission to the Ontario court of appeal, Ontario argues that the mapping method the province uses to determine jurisdictional boundaries is outdated and inaccurate. The province argues that Ahmed’s claim is a trick for avoiding liability.

Ahmed’s company stands to make about $300m from the project. While that will be made with an award of just $3.3m if the case heads to trial, the mine’s development would create hundreds of full-time jobs.

The case has all the makings of an epic showdown between Ontario’s rich resource endowments and First Nations. As it is, Ontario’s Crown owns millions of hectares of mineral land – a majority of which currently remain undeveloped.

This article originally appeared on Oilprice.com

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