Revenue sharing models are under discussion for the Ring of Fire and NAN territory.
“There are various revenue sharing models that are being examined, in fact as we talk there are discussions taking place between Ontario and First Nation organizations and individual First Nations on revenue resource sharing models,” said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Les Louttit during his keynote address at the 2nd Annual Ontario Mining Forum, held June 19 at the Valhalla Inn in Thunder Bay.
Louttit cited profit-sharing and giving First Nations a stake in ownership of the companies as examples of what First Nations might be looking for. “In the very near future we will be making a proposal to the government to consider, particularly in terms of the Ring of Fire,” Louttit said. “Those options may include equity interests in mining companies — that’s been done before. But what has not been successfully done to a large degree is profit sharing.”
Louttit said everybody has to benefit from resource development, not just governments and industry. “That can happen if everybody has the will to do that,” Louttit said. “This concept has been introduced and it has received some favourable response, but we are going to be continuing discussions with the province to see how this mechanism can benefit developments in the Nishnawbe Aski territories.”
Louttit said community infrastructure must be included as part of any agreements between NAN communities and resource development companies.
“First Nations are going to be relying more and more on other sources of funding to enable community infrastructure to happen,” Louttit said. “We’re not suggesting a new arena for every community, but the communities themselves would identify their own needs in order to accommodate their growth, the population growth, especially the youth cohort.”
Louttit brought up the example of Attawapiskat, which declared an emergency last winter due to inadequate accommodations for community members as families, Elders and babies were living in tents with no water, no sewage and no electricity.
“As you all know in the past year there has been a lot of publicity on how this community still suffers from a lack of infrastructure, a lack of housing even though a few hundred kilometres to the west is a wealth of diamonds on their traditional territory,” Louttit said, noting the De Beers Canada Victor Mine.
Louttit also brought up the issue of environmental impacts from mineral resource development.
“There will be significant environmental and ecological impacts from the chromite mine itself,” Louttit said about the proposed Cliffs mine in the Ring of Fire area. “We are going to need, as First Nations, an environmental regime that provides the highest levels of mitigation and prevention of major catastrophes, such as oil spills or whatever, that can threaten the surrounding communities’ ability to sustain themselves in the future from their traditional territories.”
Louttit said requests by the Matawa communities for a Joint Review Panel environmental assessment review process of the two proposed mines has not happened.
“In fact, the (federal) government is trying to fast-track legislation to limit the time in which environmental assessments and processes will be dealt with,” Louttit said. “So that is another challenge facing First Nations on future projects.”
Louttit said the consultation and accommodation process requires benefits to First Nation communities from any developments in their territory.
“Without that, industry would be just walking in and extracting as has been the case in the past,” Louttit said. “And just because a community decides to enter into negotiations does not imply that it provides consent to the project as a whole.”
Louttit said all the communities within NAN should receive benefits from any projects within NAN territory, not just the communities directly impacted.
“How we do that is going to be a major challenge, but it is imminent and it has to happen,” Louttit said. “We don’t want to see continued poverty among some First Nations while others reap the benefits. There is nothing wrong with reaping the benefits of development, but the principle of sharing has to take place.”
Louttit said the principle of sharing lands and resources is a key element that led to the signing of Treaty 9 and Treaty 5.