VANCOUVER, Sep. 18, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) — Gold mining on Mount Milligan in Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia has hit road bump as aboriginals there took the case to the court.
Some 1,800 members of the Nakazdli First Nation band are engaged in a legal battle with the government for the rights and title interests over the mountain, and has served eviction notice to the mining company that tries to work on the mountain’s troubled copper-gold mines.
For now, court proceedings have been adjourned to allow time for disputing parties to try to conclude an agreement. However, as the issue remains unsettled, the prospect for gold-mining on Mount Milligan looks uncertain.
“The Nakazdli and the Province (of British Columbia) have been in recent discussions regarding the Mount Milligan project,” Jake Jacobs, spokesperson of the Ministry of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources, told Xinhua. “There has been significant progress in negotiations.”
Anne Sam, spokesperson of the Nakazdli band, explained that band members are trying to protect their way of life. “If mining does go ahead, we can never hunt in this area again. All the fish, bears, beavers, birds will be scared away because mining runs 24 hours. We will have to be drinking the water and eating the animals taking in contaminants. We are being asked to give up the life we know, our way of life,” Sam told Xinhua.
The Mount Milligan mine, located 155 km northwest of Prince George in central British Columbia, covers parts of the territories of the Nakazdli First Nation. With government’s consent, it has become an asset of the Terrane Metals Corporation, the gold-mining company, since 2006.
A Terrane Metals 2009 feasibility study put the open pit mine in the second place in terms of size of gold reserves in Canada, after Red Lake in Ontario.
“It’s unfortunate,” Terrane Metals Vice President Glen Wonders commented on the legal battle. “The band is challenging the degree of consultation.”
“Are we optimistic of the outcome? Yes,” Wonders told Xinhua.
Despite the court case and eviction notice, Terrane Metals has started an initial phase of construction in preparation for future production. “We are basically focusing on improving the access road to the site,” described Wonders. “There is already an existing road of five to 10 years old, now we are upgrading and widening it.”
While production on Mount Milligan is being planned, the Nakazdli First Nation is standing firm on their pledges.
“We need to talk about sustainability,” insisted Sam. “Nobody really asked how this is going to impact the environment.”
Sam told Xinhua that Terrane Metals did consult the Nakazdli band at the beginning. “They started off with good intentions, then they saw that we have lots of questions and concerns. They did not deal with our questions and concerns upfront. I think we would have more than willing to talk.”
Terrane Metals has proposed to include band members in job creation, but Sam did not find it satisfactory.
“We are not happy with Terrane Metals who refused an impact agreement that our community put forward to them,” she said. “You can look at what’s happening now, no band people have been hired as Terrane employees. We see very little amount of opportunities.”
In a document discussing landscape management, Terrane Metals said that “the project will result in no lasting negative residual effects on wildlife, fish and aquatic habitat, water resources, vegetation and plant communities, and on visual and aesthetic resources from the facilities at Mount Milligan.”
It also said that after the mining projects, proven closure approaches and technologies will be used to restore lands affected by mining to a productive biological condition.
“They say the animals will come back in 50 years, but that is a whole generation,” Sam responded. “Ours is a family system, we only hunt and fish in certain areas, but the wildlife there will be totally wiped out. Who is speaking for the animals? We rely on the animals, and their habitats provide for them.”
“We want to keep the way we live, generation after generation. No amount of money will be able to replace a whole way of living,”
Sam said. “The land made us who we are.”
Although Terrane Metals has not reached any agreement with the Nakazdli band, it did successfully secure alliance with the neighboring McLeod Lake Indian band, another aboriginal band with territories sitting on the Mount Milligan mine, to “share benefits.”
Please write to Terrane Metals and tell them we have had enough. They are rich enough, their stock holders are rich enough.
Here s their web site: