TORONTO (miningweekly.com) – A December 27 ruling by three justices from the British Columbia (BC) Court of Appeal sitting in Whitehorse, granted an appeal by the Ross River Dena Council and found that allowing claim staking without first consulting First Nations contravenes the Crown’s duty to consult, potentially holding national ramifications for the exploration industry.
The BC First Nations Energy and Mining Council (FNEMC) said the BC government and the mining industry have been given a “blaring wake-up call” in the form of the precedent-setting court ruling against the existing free-entry claims process.
The council said government and industry now have the choice of spending huge sums and possibly several years trying to fight this decision before the Supreme Court of Canada, where First Nations have a winning record, or sitting down with First Nations to finally come up with a better way of doing business.
“This decision will eventually result in significant reforms to the mining industry across British Columbia. For the first time in a mining case the courts have said the duty to consult and accommodate must take place prior to the granting of an exploration interest, including the commencement of activities,” FNEMC board director chief Roland Willson said.
FNEMC CEO Dave Porter added that the claims process had been at the root of mining confrontation in BC for decades and with this ruling, it is was in no one’s interest to delay reform any longer with further costly and lengthy court battles that in all likelihood would “only delay the inevitable”, while continuing to deter investors from BC.
“It is imperative that the BC government engage now with First Nations to develop an alternative process to free entry, and we extend an invitation to industry to work with our council to develop options for consideration by the chiefs,” said Porter.
The ruling is most immediately and directly applicable to the BC system – on which the Yukon system is based.
The FNEMC noted that the Yukon ruling came at a time when investors were raising concerns about the huge sums of money being lost on failed mining proposals that are opposed by First Nations.
It said international mining executives are raising concerns about the failure to address First Nations’ issues and are curtailing growth plans, while junior mining companies were finding it extremely difficult to raise capital.
For the original of this article, please go to the MiningWeekly.com website: http://www.miningweekly.com/print-version/ruling-against-free-entry-claims-forces-more-first-nations-consultation-2013-01-15