First Nation reminds IOC suitors of ‘fierce opposition’ to on-reserve mining – by Henry Lazenby (MiningWeekly.com – July 9, 2013)

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TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – The Innu First Nation of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam has reminded potential suitors of mining giant Rio Tinto’s 58.7% stake in the Iron Ore Company of Canada (IOC), that the Aboriginal group continued to “fiercely oppose” IOC’s mining, railway and port operations within their traditional territory.

The group had, in March, filed legal proceedings against IOC, along with the Innu First Nation of Matimekush-Lac John, asking the Quebec Superior Court to block the company’s operations in Quebec and Labrador. The two groups had also sought C$900-million in compensation, which they alleged represented IOC’s profits at the facilities since 1954.

The Innu groups claimed the miner had violated their rights for nearly 60 years, causing harm by operating a large mining complex and 578 km railway on traditional territory (Nitassinan) in north-eastern Quebec and Labrador since the 1950s, without their prior consent. The facilities were located in the communities of Schefferville, Labrador City and Sept-Îles.

“The Innu are well past their breaking point and, in addition to the legal action, IOC can expect further acts of opposition in the coming months. While it is clear that Rio Tinto is looking to offload assets, the Innu First Nation of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam cannot help but feel that Rio Tinto is also seeking to offload the ‘Innu problem’,” the group said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We simply wish to make clear that any purchaser of Rio Tinto’s stake in IOC will run up against the same fierce opposition that is currently under way against IOC. The conflict will not end until the more than 60 years of injustice we have endured at the hands of IOC comes to an end,” Innu First Nation of Uashat Mak Mani-Utenam chief Mike McKenzie said.

At the time of the legal action, a Rio Tinto spokesperson said the IOC had had always sought the required governmental approvals and authorisations.

The First Nation group vowed to oppose any potential investor looking to do business on their traditional territory if they did not have the group’s consent.

The group filed the lawsuit and a motion seeking an injunction to stop all mining activity. They claimed that IOC’s mines and other facilities had ruined the environment, displaced community members from their territory and prevented them from practising their traditional way of life.

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