Discussion and compromise are recognized qualities of the Canadian psyche. But when it comes to settling land claims our reputation may be slipping into the American habit of replacing negotiation with litigation. At the heart of a recent dispute is the right of a junior mining company to explore on land claimed by a First Nations band.
PLATINEX of Aurora, Ontario, holds mining claims covering 3,580 ha in northwestern Ontario, about 580 km north of Thunder Bay. The mineralization potential of the Big Trout Lake property is based on a stratabound PGE model, and the company hopes it will someday become a profitable platinum producer. Already Platinex has conducted its own airborne magnetometer and EM survey, remote sensing surveys, and modelled a deposit based on historical drill-hole and geochemical data. Platinex has begun drilling and traced the known length of platinum-bearing chromitite reefs for at least 12 km. (Visit www.Platinex.com.)
The local KITCHENUHMAYKOOSIB INNINUWUG (KI) First Nation wants the company off “their” land. They declared a moratorium on resource development in November 2005 and claim the backing of the Supreme Court of Canada in ruling that aboriginals must be consulted and accommodated before work is begun.
The KI said it would only have been common courtesy for the company to have met with band leaders before starting its drill program. The band asked Platinex to leave its land, and Platinex refused. Platinex claims its employees were harassed and frightened. Work ceased temporarily, but has resumed. The company is accused of hiring a mercenary to protect its exploration camp. The KI are marching to Queen’s Park in Toronto to bring their problem to the attention of the provincial legislature.
The gloves are off. Platinex is suing the band claiming $10 billion in damages. This is the largest amount ever sought from a First Nation and an amount the KI say it would take them 200 years to pay. The KI is counter-suing, seeking an injunction against further work at Big Trout Lake. It is also suing Queen’s Park for granting an exploration licence to Platinex.
It is a sad day when land claims disputes degenerate into lawsuits. How much better it would have been for Platinex to have met with the KI last fall. Either side could have initiated the meeting, and the nasty and expensive court fights could have been avoided.