Report Details Free Entry Mining Conflicts with First Nations

Report Details Free Entry Mining Conflicts with First Nations

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John Ahni Schertow
May 19, 2008
 

The International Boreal Conservation Campaign (IBCC) has just released a report that reveals the entire array of potential (and ongoing) land conflicts that exist as a result of Canada’s outdated (colonial) “free entry” mining law.

The report is titled “Mining Exploration Conflicts in Canada’s Boreal Forest,” and you can download it at the IBCC website..

See below for a press release about the report by the Canadian Boreal Initiative. Also, here’s a detailed map showing Mining Claims, Indigenous Communities and Treaty Lands in Canada.

Report Details Free Entry Mining Conflicts with First Nations, Conservation and Wildlife

May 14, 2008 – A report and set of maps released today offer a first time overview of the extent to which mining claims staked under an outdated free entry system conflict with Aboriginal rights, private landowners, conservation, wildlife, and other values in Canada’s Boreal Forest. The report calls for modernizing the mining law.

Over a half-million sq km of mineral claims are currently staked across Canada’s Boreal Forest under a “free entry” tenure system implemented 150 years ago during the Klondike gold rush era. Under the free entry system, mineral rights are acquired automatically without consideration of other land-use priorities or the prior and informed consent of affected Aboriginal people. Ten per cent of Canada’s vast Boreal Forest is staked for mining. “We are living in the 21st century with a mining law that dates back to the colonial era. It needs to be reformed,” noted Larry Innes of the Canadian Boreal Initiative, “Social and environmental objectives – such as resolving Aboriginal land claims and ensuring conservation planning before development–should take precedence but under the current system, mineral rights are given first priority.

The maps released today show potential conflicts over vast regions of Canada, including areas where mineral exploration overlaps with unsettled Aboriginal land claims; mineral claims which encroach on proposed protected areas; and regions where intensive exploration is occurring within threatened woodland caribou habitat. The report offers case studies of British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec to illustrate the rising conflicts fuelled by booming investments in mineral exploration and the outdated free entry mining system.

This report comes out as seven Ontario First Nations leaders serve extended jail sentences for peacefully protesting unwanted mining exploration activities on traditional land, underscoring the extent of the conflicts.

“Developing world countries have generally done a poor job of protecting indigenous rights from the pressure of mining interests. The world expects a country like Canada to demonstrate enlightened leadership, not to throw First Nations chiefs in jail,” noted Steve Kallick of the International Boreal Conservation Campaign.

A recently released report by the conservative Fraser Institute also recognized ongoing land conflicts between mineral exploration, Aboriginal Rights and environmental concerns as a serious impediment to mining investment.

“In our analysis, reforms are not only necessary, but readily achievable,” concluded Innes. “Moving to a modern system that enables rational planning, accommodates Aboriginal rights, and takes other values into account before decisions are made makes good sense on environmental, social and economic grounds. Such reform will promote a viable climate for investment, ensure protection of critical habitats, and improve opportunities for Aboriginal and Northern communities to benefit from responsible mineral exploration and development.”

The report calls for fundamental legislative and industry reform to resolve current conflicts and prevent future ones. This would include replacing the free-entry system with a permitting system for prospecting and exploration; requiring exploration and mining activities to conform to land use plans; requiring prior and informed consent from affected First Nations; and improving environmental standards for exploration.

Further Information

For more information, please visit www.interboreal.org and borealcanada.ca.

Contacts

Larry Innes, Executive Director of the Canadian Boreal Initiative, (416) 575-6776, linnes@borealcanada.ca

Steve Kallick, Executive Director, International Boreal Conservation Campaign , (206) 905-4800, (206) 327-1184
(cell), skallick@pewtrusts.org.

Background contacts:
In Quebec: Nicolas Mainville, Boreal Campaign Coordinator, Société pour la nature et les parcs du Canada (SNAP), (514) 278-7627 ext. 223, nmainville@snapqc.org.

Aboriginal contacts:
Chris Reid, attorney for both KI and the Ardoch Algonquin, (416) 466-9928, lawreid@aol.com. He can arrange interviews with jailed First Nations leaders KI Chief Donny Morris or jailed former Ardoch Algonquin Chief Robert Lovelace.

Jacob Ostaman, acting KI Chief since KI Chief Donny Morris is in jail, (807) 537-2263.

Dave Porter, Political Executive, First Nations Summit, British Columbia, former Deputy Premier of the Yukon, (778) 772-8542;

Paul Blom, expert on modern treaty negotiations and mining, (250) 613-7949.

Private property owners:
Marilyn Crawford, (613) 273-4511, marilync@rideau.net. Had her Ontario property staked and has now been working on the free entry issue since 2002.

Rob Westie, (604) 533-3132, (778) 888-8563 (cell), rob@bclor.ca. Had his land staked by a neighbor. Formed the British Columbia Land Owners’ Rights group at http://www.bclor.ca/ and is in contact with other BC landowners.

Government contacts:
BC: Hon. Richard Neufeld, Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources, (250) 387-5896;
ON: Hon. Michael Gravelle, Minister of Northern Development and Mines, (416) 327-0633;
QC: Hon. Claude Béchard, Ministre de Ressources naturelles et faune, (418) 643-7295;

Wildlife Impacts:
Jim Schaefer, Associate Professor of Biology, Trent University, caribou biologist, (705) 750-0812, jschaefer@trentu.ca.

Human Rights:
Craig Benjamin, Campaigner for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Amnesty International Canada, (613) 744-7667 ext. 235, cbenjami@amnesty.ca. He has spoken on behalf of the imprisoned First Nations leaders.

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