Nisga'a takes B.C. to court over plans to redevelop historic-mine site -

Nisga’a takes B.C. to court over plans to redevelop historic-mine site


VANCOUVER – A First Nation in British Columbia’s northwest is taking the provincial government to court over plans to redevelop an open-pit molybdenum mine on lands where it says its members have fishing and hunting rights.

In a petition launched in B.C. Supreme Court this week, the Nisga’a allege, in part, that the provincial government failed to consult the First Nation on environmental issues before issuing an environmental certificate to Vancouver-based Avanti Mining Inc.

The First Nations’ leaders accuse the government of breaching the Nisga’a Final Agreement.

But the Ministry of Environment said in a statement issued Friday evening that the provincial government takes the treaty very seriously and consultation was a central aspect of the environmental assessment.

“We continue to work with the Nisga’a Nation, in good faith, on the interpretation of the environmental assessment chapter of the Nisga’a Final Agreement,” said the ministry. “The province is of the view that negotiation is preferred over litigation.”

The company said in a statement it will oppose the petition, and called the Nisga’a action “disappointing.”

“We are confident that the province’s EA process is robust and that all environmental and human-health issues have been thoroughly addressed — years of assessment and thousands of pages tell us so,” said Craig Nelsen, the company’s president and CEO.

The project would see the historic Kitsault Mine redeveloped about 30 kilometres from four Nisga’a villages and about 140 kilometres north of Prince Rupert, B.C.

The provincial government issued the company an Environmental Assessment Certificate on March 18, 2013, and Avanti Mining Inc. said it is awaiting the results of a federal environmental-assessment.

The Nisga’a state in the court petition that the project will be located in the Nass Area and the Nass Wildlife Area where citizens have treaty rights to hunt wildlife and fish for salmon and steelhead.

“The project now proposed by Avanti at the Kitsault Mine site will include … an open pit, ore processing plan, low grade ore stockpile, waste rock management facilities, explosives manufacturing facility and a sewage and waste-water management facility,” the petition states.

“The estimated ore extraction rate for the project is between 40,000 – 50,000 tonnes per day, over approximately a 15-year operation period.”

The petition states the project is expected to produce about 16-million tonnes of tailings annually and will include “elevated levels of arsenic, molybdenum, cadmium, lead and sulphur.”

The First Nation alleges the project triggers treaty obligations, and the province is obligated to give the Nisga’a timely notice and all available relevant information on a project with potential adverse environmental effects.

The Nisga’a also state that under the treaty they must be consulted and given the opportunity to participate in any environmental assessment under provincial and federal laws.

The Nisga’a want, in part, the B.C. Supreme Court to suspend the environmental certificate until a dispute-resolution process established by the treaty is resolved, quash and set aside the decision and declare the province has breached its treaty obligations.

Meantime, the company said it is confident all legal and treaty requirements have been addressed.

“While legally exempt from the BC Environmental Assessment process due to its pre-existing mine permit, Avanti voluntarily opted in because of the strong track record of EAO addressing aboriginal and treaty rights,” said Nelsen.

He said no decision of B.C.’s Environmental Assessment Office has ever been overturned by the courts.

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Nisga’a takes B.C. to court over plans to redevelop historic-mine site

  1. Great Article thanks for sharing

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  2. Yank the the peoples money for nothing feed so they appreciate the need for economic activity to pay the bills. They have too much “idle” time.

    Maybe time to treat all people equal in law, services and taxation in this country and forget race based preference. As one group/race preference is discrimination against another. After all like generational slavery, our kids, their kids all get to pay a race ransom.

    THat is what it is. Their culture was gone a long time ago. Back then average lifespan was less than 35, as life was rough and a brutal effort of survival living. Break a bone, abscessed tooth…your life could have been very short. Cold winter too, no Japanese steel American made furnaces back then. You wanted heat, you go out and scavenge dead wood as even steel axes didn’t exist. It was no eden.

    I am tired of FN BS. I really am. I am not a racist, I don’t support experimentation on anyones kids, dirty 30s were nasty to almost everyone except government employees and politicians.

    Time to just say we are equal. Sure, let them keep reserve land but stop picking our pockets with race based taxation to support it. If not for me, do it for the generations of kids that follow. Rightfully so, I can’t pass debts to my kids, so why are FN allowed to do it to our kids?

    • Aboriginal culture is not gone. Despite concerted effort to wipe it out, some people are trying to live in harmony with the land, inspired by tradition. A mine producing 16 million tonnes of tailings annually for 15 years may have some impact on that land – affecting traditional use of the land, possibly polluting water and harming fish habitat. The Nisga’a have a legal right to be consulted and the provincial government have a duty to incorporate their concerns in any decision.

      • this is a modern molybdenum mine, not some hole in the ground from the 50s. when this mine is shut down it will be cleaned up so well you won t be able to tell there was ever a mine there. i ve been to the mine site and its actually fairly clear of ARD (acid rock drainage) and other pollutants. the first nations are just looking for a way to get jobs without going through the usual process and looking for money. yes the first nations do have a right to know what goes on but they can t just halt a multi million dollar project.

        • The article specifically states open pit mine. I’m not sure what a visual inspection might reveal about water pollution – very little I suspect. One needs a lab – or just drink the water or eat the fish for a lifetime and see what the effects are on the kids, grandkids etc. As I understand environmental reviews and constutionally required aboriginal consultation projects may be halted no matter how many millions or billions are at stake if significant concerns are identified. Profit and economic activity are not the be-all and end-all. People have to be able to live there during and after the mining activity.