Cecilia Jamasmie is a news editor at MINING.com.
Canadian exploration companies feel their industry association doesn’t hear them, Neal Smitheman, a lawyer who represents junior mining companies in disputes with First Nations, told CBC.
According to the attorney, the Prospectors and Developers Association tries, but fails to represent both parties. Smitheman represents a group of 60 junior companies, which call themselves “Miners United.”
“Some people think that PDAC, by trying to accommodate both First Nations and the industry, finds itself in an unresolvable conflict from time to time,” he told CBC.
The Globe and Mail reports this group got together at the recent PDAC, in Toronto, only days after the Ontario government withdrew from exploration all lands near the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) community, 600 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. The decision was in response to opposition by that band, which has opposed any mining activity on what they consider its traditional territory.
That was not the first time that the Ontario government faced demands from the KI community. A few years ago, six of their members were arrested when they opposed Canadian miner Platinex Ltd. (TSX-V:PTX) that wanted to explore on their lands. In Dec 2009, Platinex received $5-million Cdn from the Ontario government to end the dispute and walk away from its project. The events moved Ontario to draw up a new Mining Act and caused the province’s mining-friendly reputation some damage.
Miners United are concerned about the concessions and cash they say native bands expect from companies looking for minerals on Crown lands, reports The Globe. These areas are usually considered traditional aboriginal territory by First Nations, as bands retain hunting and fishing rights.
At the heart of the debate lies a milestone decision by Supreme Court of Canada. In 2004, it decided that the Crown had a “duty to consult” native bands about development on Crown land that is considered part of a band’s traditional territory. Courts have allowed governments to delegate part of this duty to resource companies, several of whom then negotiate agreements directly with native groups.