Some positive news came out of British Columbia this week. The Kemess North Mine Joint Review Panel released its report regarding the Kemess North Copper-Gold Mine–recommending against the Kemess mine, worth $8 Billion, which would turn Amazay Lake into a toxic waste dump. This is quite possibly the first mine in Canadian history the government has made a recommendation against.
On top of that, the Review Panel has also given–or rather confirmed Indigenous Nations in BC have veto power over resource development projects on their respective territories.
This is by all means an historic event for Indigenous Nations in BC. Let’s just hope the government doesn’t simply ignore the Panel’s recommendations and continue business as usual.
Visit tsekehnay.net and see this article on the Tyee for more information.
From the Globe and Mail – The give-me-what-I-want approach is history in B.C. now, with the joint federal-provincial review panel handing aboriginal bands a veto over resource development in everything but name. Aboriginal groups across the province are hailing that decision as a precedent – and the mining industry fears they may be right.
At first glance, Kemess North seems to be an unlikely candidate for an about-turn in control over B.C.’s resource development. Just a few kilometres away is the Kemess South open-pit mine. Despite the concerns over using a glacial lake to hold tailings from Kemess North, the area is hardly unblemished wilderness. There were substantial economic benefits for local aboriginals, including about one-fifth of jobs and an annual payment of $1-million to the Tse Keh Nay band. So, Northgate Minerals Corp. could be forgiven its self-described cautious optimism heading into the release of the panel’s decision, the culmination of nearly four years of regulatory scrutiny.
What Northgate and the rest of the mining industry have only now begun to understand is how dramatically the province’s relationship with native bands has changed in the course of those four years, courtesy of the Supreme Court of Canada and a volte-face by Premier Gordon Campbell.
In 2005 – a few months after the review of Kemess North began – Mr. Campbell proclaimed the “new relationship” with native groups, a 180-degree turnabout from his previous confrontational stance toward treaty settlements and other aboriginal claims. Later that year came the Supreme Court decision on the Mikisew Cree First Nation, which said governments have a duty to conduct “meaningful consultations on industrial development that could affect treaty rights.”
No one is quite sure what that means, but native bands have believed that the principle articulated in Mikisew and other similar decisions give them a veto over resource development. Certainly, that seems to be the thinking of the review panel, which said Northgate’s proposals for compensating natives for the destruction of the lake and other traditional lands is a non-starter.