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CANADIAN MINING PERSPECTIVE: Benefits and impact agreements becoming the norm

A new wave of co-operation between Aboriginal peoples and the mineral industry can be felt across Canada. It i...


A new wave of co-operation between Aboriginal peoples and the mineral industry can be felt across Canada. It is evidenced by the growing number of impact and benefit agreements that are created every month. Gone are most of the adversarial relationships between mining and Aboriginals in favour of participation and sharing.

Time was, 35 years ago when I first took an interest in the Canadian mining scene, that the words “land claim” could strike fear into the heart of any mine builder. As long as a specific claim was not settled, the land under discussion was essentially off-limits for exploration and development.

Today’s impact and benefits agreements provide cultural, educational, training and employment opportunities for the descendents of Canada’s original inhabitants. Explorers and developers spend millions to provide these opportunities. The native population has taken up the challenge by becoming trusted employees and owners of their own businesses that serve the mineral industry. And when a mine reaches the end of its productive life, members of the local communities have skills and business acumen that can be transferred to other industries.

I acknowledge that there are some outstanding land claims today, but I am heartened that I hear far more news about inclusive agreements than exclusive arguments.

Here are a few announcements made this month that illustrate the inclusive nature of today’s mineral developments.

Brett Resources of Vancouver and eight First Nations of Treaty No.3 have signed an agreement in principle covering Brett’s Hammond Reef gold project near Atikokan, ON.

The Tahltan Nation Development Corp. and Cabo Drilling of North Vancouver have signed a venture that will create Tahltan Drilling Services. The Tahltan will provide general labour, drill operators, drill helpers and other personnel to perform mineral exploration drilling, development drilling and mine drilling in British Columbia. Cabo will provide the venture with drilling services management and supervision, as well as drills, consumables, parts, tools, supplies and other materials and equipment.

The chiefs of six Treaty No.3 First Nations have signed an exploration agreement with Canadian Arrow Mines. Canadian Arrow will offer employment and business contracts to the First Nations in return for their support of exploration on their traditional territory.

Detour Gold of Toronto has signed a letter of intent with the Wahgoshig First Nation to guide their relationship through the development of the Detour Lake gold project in northern Ontario. The Wahgoshig will be involved in environmental assessment and permitting for the project as well as areas covered by conventional impact and benefits agreements.

Toronto-based MacDonald Mines has signed an exploration agreement with the Webequie First Nation covering the company’s 2010 program in the James Bay Lowlands. The hunt is on for chromite on the Big Mac and Hornby properties.

Niocan of Montreal has updated its 10-year-old socio-economic impacts study for the proposed Oka ferroniobium mine 40 km northwest of Montreal. The study notes that the mine will create 160 jobs, 20% of which will be reserved for the Mohawks of Kanasetake. Niocan has agreed to take on the management of the underground water table as well as creating a vigilance committee to oversee environmental monitoring and remediation.

An exploration agreement has been signed by Long Lake No.58 First Nation and Premier Gold Mines to foster their working relationship with respect to the Hardrock gold project near Beardmore, ON.

Vancouver’s Terrane Metals enjoys the strong support of the McLeod Lake Indian Band for development of its Mt. Milligan copper-gold development 155 km northwest of Prince George, BC. The project is located in the band’s traditional lands.

These and many other impact and benefit agreements are the norm now, not the exception. It is unthinkable to plan exploration and mining without the consultation, input and participation of Aboriginal peoples. That is as it should be.


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4 Comments » for CANADIAN MINING PERSPECTIVE: Benefits and impact agreements becoming the norm
  1. Ron Bradshaw says:

    I strongly disagree that mineral exploration companies should be obligated to negotiate or sign agreements with Indian bands in order to proceed with exploration for many reasons, actually to many to list here. One of the most obvious reasons is that territorial lands hve not been defined. Indian bands have claimed pretty well all of the country, i.e. Caledonia etc. etc. including many places where no human being has ever set foot for example the James Bay swamps. You should have a look. Why does an Indian band get to establish some sort of title over terrain they have never touched? I presume this sham exercise has something to do with history. Why don’t some of you people read a little.

  2. Rock Chips says:

    I suggest that the author is overstating the positive implications of the “new wave of co-operation between Aboriginal peoples and the mineral industry”. Although a number of “agreements” are described that indicate that reasonable understandings have been reached between the two parties, nothing is said about the many other situations where unreasonable demands are made of small companies in the very early stages of exploration. In northwestern Ontario, one First Nation simply refused to even consider an offered agreement and another that demanded significant cash up front before they would even discuss a proposed exploration program. Unless these small exploration companies have deep pocket, they are just out of luck.
    Making a reasonable effort to consult is no longer adequate. In some parts of northern Ontario, the Ontario Government has refused to approve certain permit applications without the written CONSENT of the nearby First Nation, in effect giving them veto power over the activity. It’s pretty hard to negotiate when one party holds all the cards. The Ontario and other Provincial Governments need to make it clear to explorers what the ground rules are before the companies undertake work. The rules are far from clear now.

  3. Juan Carlos Reyes says:

    I have worked with many First Nation communities across the country and around the world and can tell you that Chief and Councils work hard to create opportunity for the members of their community, just like any community in the world, their work is to improve the lives of the people they represent.

     

    Often the problem is lack of education on both sides, for very obvious reasons on the Canadian Aboriginal side, they are so used to getting the short end of the stick, that they often want to ensure that they get a fair deal off the start. If you are not educated in the history, all of this might seem impossible to comprehend.

     

    Often, the solutions is simple! – sometimes just getting off your high horse and coming in for a cup of coffee and an honest discussion can open doors to not only simpler negotiations, but very often, meaningful partnerships.

     

    Here is a little bit of History that might help you understand a little better what’s going on

     

    A little history and facts you might want to research:
    1. Treaties – Treaties can be loosely compared to contracts: both are means of willing parties assuming obligations among themselves, and a party to either that fails to live up to their obligations can be held liable under international law. The central principle of treaty law is expressed in the maxim pacta sunt servanda”pacts must be respected”. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treaty

     

    2. Residential Schools – Founded in the 19th century, the Canadian Indian residential school system was intended to force the assimilation of the Aboriginal peoples in Canada into European-Canadian society.[1] “When Amerindians had asked for schools during treaty negotiations, they had envisioned them as a means of preparing their children for the new way of life that lay ahead.”[2] The purpose of the schools, which separated children from their families, has been described by many commentators as “killing the Indian in the child.”[3][4] – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Residential_schools

     

    3. Indian Act – The Act defines who is an “Indian” and contains certain legal rights and legal disabilities for registered Indians. The rights exclusive to Indians in the Indian Act are beyond legal challenge under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section Twenty-five of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms in particular, provides that the charter shall not be interpreted as negating specific aboriginal treaties and their corresponding rights and freedoms.[1] Section Thirty-five of the Constitution Act, 1982 also recognizes and affirms the legal validity of aboriginal treaties. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Act

  4. KK says:

    People like Mr. Bradshaw and Rock Chips should do more reading themselves. Aboriginal communities have certainly experienced and continue to face hardship, as a result of the Government of Canada’s enfranchisment, assimilation, and paternalistic policies against Aboriginal Peoples. Aboriginal communities do want to become independent and self-sustaining, but there are (Indian Act) policies and legislation in place that limit First Nation communities from developing economic opportunities.

    Impact Benefit Agreements or Partication Agreements are one way for Aboriginal communtiies to create business relationships with developers, but those agreements still need to be properly implemented and followed through.

    In addition, if you look at the Aboriginal legal duty to consult principles, Developers/Crown are obligated to consult and accommodate Aboriginal communities. However, Aboriginal communtiies are not given veto power over development activities; that is, one of the many reasons why Aboriginal communities are partnering with developers because if they did not – developers would continue to persist in exploiting Aboriginal traditional territories. On the positive note, these Aboriginal communities can develop and promote social, economic, cultural environmental policies that will help sustain their communities.

    I would suggest that people should take the time to learn more about what Aboriginal communities are facing; instead of, making comments that are not necessary true. Do your research and get your facts straight.

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