The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal is the daily newspaper of Northwestern Ontario.
A court ruling in favour of a Timmins-area First Nation regarding a mining dispute is further evidence that courts are backing up Aboriginal legal requirements to be consulted before drilling and staking begins.
“It proves the point that if you don’t follow the law, you’re going to end up in court and it’s going to cost your investors money,” Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy said Thursday.
Beardy was reacting to Ontario Superior Court of Justice Carol Brown’s decision this week that granted a 120-day injunction to Wahgoshig First Nation to temporarily prevent junior miner Solid Gold Resources from drilling on their land.
According to the ruling, “no consultation occurred with (WFN) before Solid Gold’s drilling began in the spring of 2011.”
Brown noted that since October 2009, the Ontario government has required that mining exploration be done “in a manner consistent with the recognition and affirmation of existing Aboriginal and treaty rights in section 35 of the (federal) Constitution Act, including the duty to consult.”
Solid Gold argued in court “it has no legal responsibility or duty to consult, and that if there is such a duty, it resides with the Crown.”’
Solid Gold also took the position that WFN’s traditional (Treaty 9) lands “were surrendered long ago, and that there are no asserted rights over those lands that would justify an injunction.”
The Ontario government argued that it had “delegated” the duty to consult to Solid Gold and, in correspondence to the company in November, urged the company to do so.
The court ruled the company fell short.
“Not only did Solid Gold . . . fail to consult with WFN, the evidence indicates that it made a concerted, wilful effort not to consult, at least until after its flow-through share money for 2011 had been exhausted,” Brown said.
In an email Thursday, Solid Gold president Darryl Stretch said “we are preparing a response that we will be available (today).’’
Beardy said while the word “surrender” does appear in some historical documents regarding Aboriginal treaties, “we never gave up the right to govern ourselves or share our land and resources from time to time.
“We are not against development, but we want jobs, training and economic spinoffs,” he added.
Brown ordered that during the 120-day injunction period, “Solid Gold, WFN and the province enter into a process of bona fide, meaningful consultation and accommodation regarding any future (mining activity).”
She added: “In the event that consultation and accommodation is not productive, WFN is entitled to seek an extension of the injunction.”