Northern Ontario’s Mining Future may be at Stake

Ring of FireTHUNDER BAY – In Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) the Chief and Council are working to make a difference in their community. However in trying to have others, specifically mining companies, and the Ontario government respect a cemetery, burials and sacred sites, or traditional lands, it seems that respect is simply not there. Chief Donny Morris has the support of the people of KI behind him. The First Nation has passed by referendum two resolutions which are binding on their lands. Those resolutions are to protect the watershed, and lands on which the people live, and have lived.

The issue may be as big as putting Northern Ontario’s mining future at stake.

That Chief Morris is placed in a position where he states, “we are inevitably going down the path of the Platinex dispute”, speaks very poorly of the real efforts and words spoken by Premier Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Government. The Platinex dispute saw six people, including Chief Morris and members of the KI Council jailed for contempt of court. At that time KI was finally in a position where they had no money left to fight in court.

KI is seeking that consultation take place before exploration takes place on its traditional lands. The Ontario Government has passed changes to the Mining Act stating: “78.2 (1) No person shall carry out an activity prescribed for the purposes of this section on a mining claim, mining lease or licence of occupation for mining purposes unless the person has submitted an exploration plan, in accordance with any prescribed requirements, including any Aboriginal consultation that may be prescribed. 2009, c. 21, s. 40.”

Regulations for the new Mining Act however are still a work in progress, and as of June 2011, provisions for issues covering Aboriginal concerns remain undone.

Chief Morris is stating that proper consultation is not happening. An eviction notice was presented to the mining company. The mining company’s activities were discovered in September by a hunting party who found the activity happening.

God’s Lake Resources, in October stated in a media release: “On September 22, 2011 four Native people, in canoes were discovered as the work crew was approaching the shore of Foster Lake. The crew discovered that the paddles for the canoe were taken and upon returning to camp alcohol had also been stolen. Attempts were made to talk with these people – once again no response as they paddled away. Rather than rob the camp, a more appropriate action would have been to direct company representatives to the burial sites.

“GLR’s position is to engage in exploration activities on the leased 16 claims. The property has excellent exploration potential with assays to follow as they are made available to the Company. As with many First Nations in Ontario, GLR would like to have a negotiated agreement in place with the KI, addressing both parties concerns and activities with mutual respect and understanding.

“For readers unfamiliar with the Ontario Mining Act, regulations, process and protocols, mining companies such as GLR have only 2 years in which to carry out and report work on staked mining claims. If work is not reported, the mining claims expire.

“Although the Ontario Government provides basic guidelines, including the recommendation and obligation to consult with First Nations, there are currently no guidelines in place to help us determine how to act when attempts to consult go unanswered for long periods of time. Furthermore, the obligation to consult has been interpreted by many First Nation communities to mean “obtain their permission”. Under the new Mining Act, claimholders in Ontario do not require permission from First Nations – rather, they are required to consult with First Nations. In our current case, KI chose to stonewall, rather than to communicate back on burial site locations, or allow any form of consultation.”

What it appears is that there is a wide gulf between KI and GLR and the actions of the Ontario Government are widening that gulf.

The overall impact on Northern Ontario and mining exploration is going to be seen by the actions of the McGuinty Government in this, and likely other situations. We may find that the wisdom of voters in electing a minority government were, as always right. Perhaps in the minority government position at Queen’s Park the issues can be fully addressed.

Time alone will tell. Should they not be addressed and solved, it is likely that the potential of the Ring of Fire may get to sit there for some time to come. The Ontario Government is going to have to step up and insure that consultations are real, and effective.

James Murray
Chief Content Officer