Gull Bay First Nation Deeply Concerned over Lack of Government Actions

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Tailings Pond at North American Palladium's Lac Des Mille Lac Mine
Tailings Pond at North American Palladium's Lac Des Mille Lac Mine
Tailings Pond at North American Palladium's Lac Des Mille Lac Mine
Tailings Pond at North American Palladium’s Lac Des Mille Lac Mine

THUNDER BAY – Gull Bay First Nation is concerned over the re-opening of Lac des Iles Mine. Chief Wilfred King states, in a letter to Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, “It is the position of the people of our Nation that our Aboriginal and Treaty Rights have been infringed upon in the decisions and activities that surround the current situation at Lac des Milles mines regarding the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) actions over the past five weeks to approve ‘controlled’ discharges of water into the environment in the hopes of preventing a catastrophic failure of the tailings management facility”.

On July 1st, Chief King wrote to the Premier. “In that letter, I made both a formal request for (1) consultation resources and (2) identification of a contact representative at each Ministry who would be made available to open/continue timely and meaningful dialogue with Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek – Gull Bay First Nation”.

“We have received a copy this afternoon of the report prepared for North American Palladium entitled “Draft Remediation Plan – Version 3 – DST File No. OE-TB-021364”. After a ‘plain language review’ with an expert resource friendly to the First Nation, who was prepared to offer a preliminary oversight of the plan, Ican confirm and will reiterate that the First Nation requires immediate reception of financial resources to facilitate the type of assistance Gull Bay needs to successfully participate in the necessary consultation processes which legally must occur going forward – should this plan be implemented without amendments.

Water from the controlled release of the tailings pond
Water from the controlled release of the tailings pond

There are components of the “Draft Remediation Plan” which raise serious concerns to KZA – GBFN states Chief King

“I offer the following excerpt:

‘Contaminants currently known to be present in the effluent discharging into the natural environment are known to be of concern for fish species. Suspended solids in the effluent can reduce oxygen levels that could lead to anoxia in the fish; high aluminum and iron concentrations can potential increase fish mortality. At this time, the long-term effects of elevated concentrations of these contaminants in fish species are not known. Total suspended solids have the ability to cover gill tissue and prevent proper oxygenation in fish. Aluminum and iron in water can induce oxidative stress in fish tissues, which could potentially lead to fish kills. Toxicity data has shown that the effluent is non-toxic for fish exposed to up to 96 hrs. However, longer exposures can still have a negative effect in fish health and/or reproduction.’

“As we are all acutely aware, the exposure time to the natural environment – animals and plants – has greatly exceeded 96 hours,” the Chief states.

“Your governments have a fiscal, jurisdictional and political responsibility in regards to its fiduciary duties to the First Nation, adds Chief King. “The decisions and activities moving forward in regards to consultation must not only be timely and meaningful, but also respectful of and in accordance with our Rights. In a letter dated June 25, 2015 from Min. Glen Murray, (received electronically today no doubt only at the frequent pleas of my Special Advisor – as MOECC staff took the position that GBFN should continue to wait for the mailed copy), the Minister states that MOECC “remains committed to keeping the FN … informed about the situation” … and that MOECC “will also continue to provide regular updates to that end”. As the Premier and all Ministers copied realize ‘informed’ is not the end of the province’s obligations in regards to consultation”.

“Further, we have received no regular updates from MOECC – only from the mining proponent. Minister Murray goes on “moving forward, there will be opportunities for more conversations about the issues raised in your letter”. If I may bluntly ask exactly when will the First Nation be afforded the ‘opportunities’ of which we are legally entitled? We have actively attempted to engage all responsible ministries regarding initiating the necessary consultative process without success”.

“Once again, I am asking for resources that are due to my Nation – both provincially and federally. The Nation continues to assert our Aboriginal and Treaty Rights regarding the potential impacts surrounding this matter and will be relentless in the pursuit of inclusion,” concludes Chief King.

An Eagle sitting watch over the river.
An Eagle sitting watch over the river.
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