Northern Ontario’s First Nations Voice: http://wawataynews.ca/
A diamond exploration company that recently completed an exploration agreement with Aroland First Nation says taking the time to build a respectful relationship was key to the deal.
Chris Meraw, President of Debut Diamonds, told Wawatay News the agreement proves that if companies take the time to get agreements in place with First Nations, both sides can benefit.
“We knew that the modernization of the Mining Act is under process and that you are going to need an agreement with the First Nation in order to use mechanized equipment on their traditional land,” Meraw said. “And we’ve always had a great respect for treaty rights and have built a tremendous relationship with the chief and community.
“The agreement is the result of both sides taking time to listen and discuss and reach an agreement that will benefit everyone,” Meraw said. “If you don’t talk, don’t consult and don’t communicate you’re really not moving ahead in any reasonable way.”
The agreement between Aroland and Debut was just one of two exploration agreements Aroland signed in August. The First Nation also signed an agreement with White Tiger Mining, a German exploration company, giving the company access to explore for gold, copper and silver on its Marshall Lake property 30kms west of Nakina.
Aroland Chief Sonny Gagnon released a statement about the agreements, saying the First Nation is securing mutual benefits from its traditional lands.
“Aroland First Nation takes pride in the fact that we are working with industry to both ensure respect for our Aboriginal and treaty rights, and to secure mutual benefit and capacity development from such arrangements,” Gagnon said in a statement.
The drilling from Debut Diamonds will take place near the company’s Nakina Project in the James Bay Lowlands. The company’s project covers a total of 85 mining claims.
Under terms of the agreement, Debut will provide Aroland with financial contributions in support of social and cultural programs. It also includes employment and service related business opportunities for the First Nation.
Aroland members will be involved in the exploration work, in areas of campsite support and development and by working alongside the company’s drillers.
Meraw said the agreement took nine months to develop.
“Other companies might be in a rush and are not used to having to take the time to develop relations and have the mutual respect, but things are changing, and our agreement with Aroland proves if you take the time you can get these agreements done it will all work its way out,” Meraw said.
Meraw said Debut is especially paying attention to sacred and cultural values. Elders and youth from the community are surveying the land Debut wants to drill on in order to document sacred sites, work that Meraw said helps the First Nation start to build a modern database of areas needing protection.
White Tiger has also agreed to provide undisclosed financial payments and other benefits and to provide employment and service related opportunities to Aroland.
According to the company, White Tiger’s exploration agreement provides for the proper handling and protection of any possible burial or other culturally significant sites, and includes plans for the prevention, mitigation and remediation of any and all environmental impacts.
“We believe that this agreement will bring economic opportunities to the region and will provide certainty for the company’s Marshall Lake property project in a manner which is respectful of traditional territories and Aboriginal and treaty rights,” Douglas Mason, CEO of White Tiger said in a statement.