Wabauskang taking proposed gold mine to court
Wabauskang First Nation is preparing to file a lawsuit to oppose Rubicon Minerals’ proposed Phoenix Gold Mine in Red Lake.
The Treaty #3 First Nation says it was left with no choice but to go to court after attempts to work with the company over the past year to address Wabauskang’s concerns failed to resolve the differences.
Wabauskang Chief Leslie Cameron pointed blame over the dispute directly at the federal government. Cameron said the government has passed its duty to consult First Nations onto Ontario and then onto mining companies.
“The government has to deal with us directly,” Cameron said. “They can’t hide behind mining companies.”
Cameron said Wabauskang expressed its concerns with Rubicon’s Phoenix Gold Mine project right from the time the project was initiated. Despite those concerns, Ontario approved the mine’s process review in the fall of 2011.
“We didn’t want to go to court, so even though we don’t think Ontario had the authority to approve the mine, we tried to work with the company over the last year to resolve our concerns,” Cameron said. “We’ve been unsuccessful, so we’re forced to go to court to ensure that our interests are protected.”
According to Rubicon Minerals’ website, Ontario’s Ministry of Northern Development and Mines approved the company’s production closure plan for the Phoenix gold mine on Dec. 2, 2011. The remaining permits for the project were received in March 2012.
Rubicon Minerals’ website states that the company is operating in a “low risk” environment due to its safe jurisdiction in Red Lake, Ontario’s tax environment which is the “most favourable” in Canada, and the company’s “good relations with Lac Seul First Nation and good history of consultation with other Aboriginal communities.”
In a press release, Rubicon said it started consultations with Wabauskang in January 2009.
The company said it has provided funds to Wabauskang for environmental reviews, legal assistance and a traditional use study, among other things. Rubicon also stated that it has been involved in negotiations with Wabauskang over terms of “economic accommodation” under the terms of a benefit agreement.
Cameron, however, said Rubicon’s efforts to consult have not been adequate.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “They don’t have Wabauskang’s support. We’ll oppose them every way possible.”
Cameron likened his community’s struggle with that of Wahgoshig First Nation’s legal battle with Solid Gold Resources. Wahgoshig first took Solid Gold to court in the fall of 2011 and earned a successful decision. The case is set to come before an appeals court.
But for all Wabauskang’s complaints with Rubicon Minerals, the crux of its case focuses on the government. The First Nation has repeatedly complained to Ontario and the federal government that the duty to consult First Nations has been wrongly delegated to mining companies.
Cameron said both governments have ignored Wabauskang’s concerns.
“The federal government stands by and lets Ontario delegate consultation to mining companies, such as Rubicon, who then say they aren’t responsible,” Cameron said. “Ontario and Canada have to realize that First Nations aren’t going to take this anymore. Government has to fulfill their obligations directly with First Nations.”
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