Natives have ‘hand out,’ says mine CEO – by Sebastien Perth (Sudbury Star – November 9,2012)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

The president of a mining company in the middle of a dispute with an aboriginal group in Northern Ontario said he feels he is being “extorted” by the Wahgoshig First Nation.

Darryl Stretch said his company, Solid Gold Resources Corporation, has made a high grade gold discovery near Lake Abitibi in 2011, but can’t explore any further due to a court order.

The Wahgoshig First Nation filed an injunction against Solid Gold to stop its exploration on land they claim treaty rights over, at least until the two groups can come to an agreement.

Solid Gold won a court ruling allowing it to appeal the original injunction decision. That case will be heard in January.

The root of the dispute can perhaps be traced back to a 2004 Supreme Court of Canada decision that said the crown had a “duty to consult” with native groups when an activity had the potential to affect treaty rights. The federal government updated its guidelines for federal officials to “fulfill the duty to consult.”

“Third parties, such as industry groups, do not have a legal obligation to consult aboriginal groups,” Updated Guidelines for Federal Officials to Fulfill the Duty to Consult, says. “The Crown may delegate to companies such aspects of consultation as the gathering of information about the impact of the proposed project on the potential or established Aboriginal or Treaty rights.”

“The Crown should clearly communicate what is expected of third parties to industry proponents, aboriginal groups and various stakeholders. Ontario’s new mining legislation includes measures to ensure that proponents consider Aboriginal consultation.”

However, Stretch said no restrictions were placed on his exploration when he signed a contract with the province.

“The Crown gave me the rights to the mineral on that land without any encumbrances. We could have worked anywhere in the world, but we worked here because we liked the contract we were entering with Ontario. We don’t like it anymore,” Stretch said.

When reached for comment, a representative from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines said government officials could not comment since the matter is still before the courts.

The lack of clear regulation defining the duty to consult should disappear as new provincial guidelines come in affect, according to Gary Clark, executive director of the Ontario Prospectors Association.

“Up until Nov. 1, there wasn’t any direction from the govern-m ent on how to consult or when you needed to consult until you’re in the more advanced exploration. A lot of companies were doing it as a ‘best practice’ in talking with First Nations, a lot of companies were just doing exploration without talking and there’s been no conflicts because the First Nation wasn’t too worried about the work,” Clark said.

The rules in place Nov. 1 are more voluntary in nature than guidelines set by the province that will come in effect April 1. By then, every activity will be regulated, whether it is exploring or drilling.

Clark said he hoped these new provincial rules will include an education facet that will help First Nations and industry groups better understand each others’ rights.

“A lot of it is education, on both sides. We have First Nations that are not understanding of how we operate and we have industry groups that don’t understand how First Nations operate. That’s just the way it is.

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