Just when I thought only controversy would make the headlines, along come not one but three good news stories about agreements between Aboriginal peoples, the minerals industry and government.
In the first, OILSANDS QUEST of Calgary and the Northern Village of La Loche, Sask., have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding the creation of an economic partnership. The deal recognizes the social, economic and environmental impacts that need to be addressed. The company is offering new business education and employment opportunities not only for the residents of La Loche but for those of neighbouring communities, too.
Oilsands Quest is exploring its leases in northern Saskatchewan on the border with Alberta. The best resource estimate amounts to 1.34 billion bbl of bitumen, in what may become Saskatchewan’s first global-scale oil sands project. (See www.OilsandsQuest.com)
Vancouver-based MERIT MINING has signed an impacts and benefits agreement (IBA) with the OSOYOOS INDIAN BAND. The agreement covers Merit’s Greenwood gold project in south-central British Columbia. Predictably, the IBA covers potential employment and business opportunities, education and training assistance, and revenue sharing. Merit has also created the Osoyoos’ Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre Endowment Fund.
Merit began commissioning its Greenwood 200-t/d gravity-flotation mill in March 2008 to process a 10,000-tonne bulk sample from the Lexington-Grenoble mine. Commercial production is planned at a milling rate of 200 t/d once the sample has been treated. (See www.MeritMiningCorp.com)
Moving eastward, the GOVERNMENT OF ONTARIO and the GRASSY NARROWS FIRST NATION have signed a MOU aimed at what the government calls “building a strong, positive relationship.” For the past six months the two sides have been in discussions with former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci, who was retained to advise Ontario Natural Resources minister Donna Cansfield. The interests of the Grassy Narrows band lie mainly in the management of the Whiskey Jack Forest.
While forest management may not be at the forefront of a miner’s daily concerns, I am pleased to see that the Aboriginal land holders are being consulted by industries besides our own. The day may come when land use agreements precede land use in a civilized manner, rather than as a part of a confrontation.