The Federal government hopped onto the grungy coattails of the British Colombia government this week, sending out a clear reminder that they couldn’t care less about First Nation rights or concerns when it comes to mining on First Nations’ territory.
Overstepping their Constitutional Duty to Consult and Accommodate First Nations, a duty that’s been confirmed by the courts nearly a dozen times now, the government handed out its approval for the Mt. Milligan gold and copper project in the heart of Nak’azdli territory.
Headed by Terrane Metals, the Mt. Milligan mine is strongly supported by the company’s majority shareholder, Goldcorp Inc..
“As with BC’s earlier approval, the federal approval for the Mt. Milligan (Shus Nadloh) mine is a flagrant violation of the Court-ordered duty to consult with First Nations and must be overturned,” says Anne Marie Sam, a band councillor with the Nak’azdli First Nation. “It violates Canadian constitutional law that requires Canada to assess impacts of a proposed project on Aboriginal rights and title at every stage of federal approval, and the federal government has failed to respect our decision-making authority on Nak‘azdli lands.”
“Given this information and the fact that Nak‘azdli have already filed its case against the Province’s approval and a court date is set for March 22, investors in this project still have nothing to celebrate”, adds Nak‘azdli Chief Fred Sam in a December 3 Press Release.
“Investors and the public need to be aware that the province and federal government ignored all of our concerns about the impacts of this proposed mine on our traditional lands and their vital headwaters and watersheds, and snubbed all our efforts to be involved in a meaningful environmental review process,” Chief Sam continues. “Their cavalier dismissal of Nak‘azdli was made clear when, despite the fact this mine will be built on our traditional lands, neither government saw fit to inform us of their approval… We had to find out from the media.”
The Nak‘azdli have been strongly opposed the mine for the past three years. Most notably, when the BC government gave its own approval for the project, in March, the First Nation warned that it was “prepared to consider all our options” to protect their rights and their territory.
Three months later, in June, 2009, the First Nation filed a petition against the project and served Terrane Metals with an eviction notice demanding the company “remove all their infrastructure and equipment from Nak’azdli territory.”
Despite these statements and many other actions, the company holds tight onto some arrogant optimism that they will be able to reach an agreement with the Nak’azdli.
It’s not likely to happen any time soon, primarily, because the proposed mine is situated near several traditional land holdings, called Keyhos, which are of great cultural and religious significance to the Nak’azdli and other Dakelh-speaking people.
As explained on the Keyoh landholders website, the term “Keyoh” is often refer to as “a place for survival,” a place “…where it becomes possible for individuals to attach in a personal way to the land. It is in this sense as a place for self-restoration, that the word ‘survival’, used to describe keyohs, is fully realized.”
The mine threatens to compromise the sanctity of the Keyhos, possibly contaminate local water sources, and eliminate existing fish habitats in the Alpine and King Richard Creeks, which will be reclassified as “tailings impoundment areas” granting Terrane Metals full legal rights to use them as waste dumps.
According to Canada’s Environment minister, Jim Prentice, these and other concerns, often raised by the Nak-azdli, hold no merit whatsoever. In giving Terrane Metals the green light, Prentice, the former Minster of Indian and Northern affairs, concurred with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that not “adverse environmental effects” are likely to occur.
Considering Goldcorp’s environmental record in Honduras and Guatemala, and their own need to protect their land and their history, the Nak’azdli aren’t willing to take that chance.
For more information, please contact Anne Marie Sam at 250-649-8284 or 250-996-7171
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