The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.
A junior exploration company that Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation is trying to kick off its traditional territory says its attempts to consult with the band have been met with silence.
God’s Lake Resources CEO Ed Ludwig said Thursday that the company has tried to meet with the band, without success, about the existence of sacred burial sites near where the company is exploring for gold in the Sherman Lake area.
“We were told about (the potential of grave sites in the area) and have asked the chief and elders to locate them,” said Ludwig, adding that the province has made the same request.
“We’ve asked that they please come and show us . . . we want to show the proper respect.
“I want to respect that avenue and develop a boundary, but when questioned about where there might be grave sites, the band has provided no response,” he said.
Ludwig added that company employees have so far found “no evidence of any grave sites up there.”
“Our ultimate goal is to negotiate a deal with them, but,” Ludwig said, “they will not respond. They have refused to sit down and discuss this for about nine months now.”
God’s Lake is exploring for gold on 16 surface and mineral claims under a 21-year Crown land lease with the province.
Ludwig, an exploration geologist, and two employees left the site on Monday after conducting two weeks of data collection in the area. The site is about 120 kilometres northwest of KI.
On Wednesday, the band sent a delegation to post an eviction notice at the site where it says God’s Lake personnel had set up a camp.
“All operations must cease and all personnel must leave immediately within the vicinity of Sherman Lake and the area,” the notice reads.
The notice came two days after the band asked the province to stop God’s Lake from working on a KI ancestral burial site.
The band claims that the company has staked new claims despite KI’s well-publicized moratorium on mining activity, and that the company has worked the site in spite of being informed that multiple grave sites are within the claim area.
“Our ancestors deserve a place where they can rest undisturbed,” KI Chief Donny Morris said. “People everywhere understand that cemeteries are sacred places. But in Sherman Lake, they want to put a gold mine on one.”
KI spokesman John Cutfeet said the area being explored for gold is an “old settlement site where community members used to gather.”
He said the band is in the process of identifying exactly where burial sites are located.
“One site we are aware of is about a 20-minute walk from the former (Sherman Lake) mine shaft,” he said, adding that the entire area is “part of a spiritual landscape site.”
The band also has an outstanding land claim in the area over land it says it was promised by the federal government and never received.
Cutfeet said God’s Lake has failed to get the consent of the community for its exploration project.
Ludwig said the company is determined to explore the property which was the site of a gold mine in the 1930s.
“Our door is always open, and we would welcome (KI) as a partner, providing jobs for community members — without all the political rhetoric,” said Ludwig.
Northern Development, Mines and Forestry Minister Michael Gravelle said Thursday that “our government is taking the situation very seriously.
“We want to be able to resolve this issue,” he said, adding that the government has accepted an invitation to visit KI and talk to Morris and the band council about the matter.
Assistant deputy ministers of Mines, Aboriginal Affairs and Natural Resources are to visit the community in the near future, said Gravelle.
The Sherman Lake area is 410 kilometres north of Red Lake. Prospecting in 1935 led to the discovery of gold in the area and development of a small mine which went into production in 1938. It produced 52,560 ounces of gold over four years.