A call to ban mining and exploration companies from Treaty 3 territories has caught members of Miners United off guard.
“I think there’s been some major misconceptions on what Miners United is trying to do and where it wants to go,” said Gary Clark, executive director of the Ontario Prospector’s Association.
The group, made up of about 60 companies, is newly formed and Clark said they have only met twice so far. That includes a meeting held two weeks ago.
A March 27 report on the meeting by the Globe and Mail said the companies “shared concerns about the concessions and cash they say native bands expect from companies looking for minerals on Crown lands that are considered traditional aboriginal territory.”
The Grand Council of Treaty #3 issued a release on March 30 stating they strongly disagree with the tactics discussed at the Miners United forum.
Treaty #3 Grand Chief Diane Kelly said the comments in the article depicted community leaders as greedy and money-hungry, adding the comments were hurtful and full of stereotypes.
“We see ourselves as protectors of the land,” she said in the release.
“In many instances, Treaty #3 communities have developed strong partnerships with mining companies because of the early commitment of companies to talk with us, build our capacity to understand the projects and the real impacts and potential benefits,” Kelly said.
The title of the release said that Miners United will not be tolerated in Treaty #3 territory.
Clark said he hopes to talk to Kelly Tuesday to allay any fears she has and to clear up any misconceptions.
He said most ideas he’s heard from members of the group are about working together with First Nations to come up with solutions and take them to the government.
“We’ve had a really hard time with traction with the government, going to them by ourselves,” he said. “The easier way to do it would be to ally with First nations to get some solutions and some consistency across the province.”
A ban on Treaty #3 land would be hard on exploration companies, Clark added, noting there have been many projects moving forward in Northwestern Ontario built on agreements made between local communities and explorers.
Clark is also eager to hear Kelly’s thoughts on mining in the area and said they desperately need help.
“We’re not here to revolt and we’re not out to be radicals,” he said.