The Thompson Citizen, which was established in June 1960, covers the City of Thompson and Nickel Belt Region of Northern Manitoba. The city has a population of about 13,500 residents while the regional population is more than 40,000. [email protected]
Mathias Colomb Cree Nation (MCCN) at Pukatawagan announced March 5 that Chief Arlen Dumas would return to the Lalor Mine near Snow Lake to issue a second stop work order against Hudbay, which operates the mine. A previous stop work order from MCCN was issued to the company and the Manitoba government on Jan. 28.
“Both the province and Hudbay have failed to comply with the order and thus Chief Arlen Dumas is returning to issue a second order,” announced MCCN in a press release.
“This order is issued because: Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Co., Ltd. And affiliated companies have breached the traditional laws of Missinippi Nehethowak as represented by Mathias Colomb Cree Nation by constructing, operating, and extracting resources from Lalor Mine at Snow Lake without the express permission of the owners Missinippi Nehethowak as represented by Mathias Colomb Cree Nation,” read the stop work order presented on Jan. 28. “WARNING: The failure to stop work, the resumption of work without permission from the Missinippi Nehethowak as represented by Mathias Colomb Cree Nation is punishable by the laws of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation.”
“The entire basis on which the Hudbay project was assessed is based on a flawed assumption – i.e. that there are ‘no Indians’ in the mining area,” said Dumas in the March 5 press release. “As a result, federal and provincial governments, as well as Hudbay, have failed to secure our consent or consider our rights and thuse should be halted.”
MCCN says it represents the “sovereign Nation of Missinippi Nehethowak,” which extensive ancestral territory that includes thearea where the Lalor Mine is located and that Hudbay has failed to obtain MCCN’s consent to operate the mine on MCCN terriroty and extract MCCN resources.
“The province of Manitoba and Hudbay have failed to come to the table in good faith,” Dumas said. “The province has failed in its duty to obtain the free, informed and prior consent of MCCN for activities taking place on our territories as required by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).”
Pam Palmater, a lawyer and associate professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University in Toronto, said Hudbay’s actions in indigenous communities around the world, including Guatemala, were “deplorable.”
“It is time that government and industry started working with Indigenous peoples as the rightful owners versus treating them like impediments that need to be removed,” she said.
John Vincic, Hudbay’s vice president of investor relations and corporate communications told the Nickel Belt News in an e-mail after the first stop-work order was issued that the company has had an ongoing dialogue with MCCN for more than two years which it intends to continue.
“Brad Lantz, vice president for the Manitoba Business Unit, went to Lalor on the day of the demonstration and spoke personally with many of the participants,” wrote Vincic. “Approvals of mining projects are the decision of the province, which makes provision for public consultation as part of the process. Lalor has all the provincial permits and approvals required for the work done to date and we remain committed to completing the project and bringing it into full production, which will bring more jobs and economic activity to the area around Snow Lake.”
A spokesperson for Minister of Innovation, Energy and Mines Dave Chomiak, said at that time that the province recognizes the importance of working with aboriginal people while developing the province’s mining industry.
“Consultation is an important part of the process and we will continue to do that. When there is disagreement, we are committed to resolving it in the best interests of all Manitobans including aboriginal Manitobans. The province is and will continue to follow due process in environmental licensing. We are encouraged that Hudbay and MCCN have been talking regarding this project.”
Dumas said in a letter sent Jan. 28 to Hudbay and Chomiak, as well as to Premier Greg Selinger and Minister of Conservation and Water Stewardship Gord Mackintosh that no formal notice of Hudbay’s application for a Class 2 Environment Act licence for the construction and operation of the Lalor mine was ever provided to MCCN.
MCCN and the Wilderness Committee’s Manitoba Field Office announced March 5 that they had begun working together to object to Hudbay’s proposed Reed Mine project which is currently in the advanced exploration stage just south of highway 39 in Grass River Provincial Park about 80 kilometres southwest of Snow Lake.
“The Reed Lake mine proposed by Hudbay is within the unceded traditional territories of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation,” said Dumas in a Wilderness Committee press release announcing the cooperative effort. “This proposed mine raises serious concerns in relation to caribou populations, water quality, and carbon emissions.”
Eric Reder, Manitoba campaign director for the Wilderness Committee, which calls itself Canada’s largest membership-based, citizen-funded wilderness preservation organization, sais the environmental organization felt it was essential that government decisions on lands and waters are made with the informed consent of indigenous people.
“We need to see the province of Manitoba and Hudbay fully respect the Aboriginal, Treaty and Inherent rights of Mathias Colomb Cree Nation,” said Reder. “MCCN is calling Hudbay to the table, to explain how this [Reed Mine] development will impact caribou, Reed Lake, and the lands and waters in their traditional territory. We share their desires to see Mother Earth cared for.”
Mathias Colomb Cree Nation and Marcel Colomb Cree Nation, which was created from it, are located within Treaty 5 adhesion territory, which covers most of Northern Manitoba, but are signatories to Treaty 6, which was signed at Fort Carlson Saskatchewan on Aug. 23, Aug. 28 and Sept. 9, 1876, according to “Treaties in Manitoba,” a publication produced by Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, now known as Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.
Mathias Colomb Cree Nation was formerly part of the Peter Ballantyne Band of Pelican Narrows, Sask., according to an online history of Pukatawagan by Edward Bear at http://hillmanweb.com/puk/beare.html, which adhered to Treaty 6 as members of the James Roberts band of Lac La Ronge on Aug. 10, 1898. Mathias Colomb Cree Nation at Pukatawagan was recognized as a separate reserve by the government of Canada in 1911, after the Indian Afffairs inspector granted it separate reserve status in 1910 in response to a 1907 request for separate annuity payments to be paid in Pukatawagan.
A Manitoba order-inc-council dated Aug. 29, 2012 set aside Crown land in the King Fisher Bay and Kississing Lake areas “to enable the government of Canada (“Canada”) to fulfill a portion of its obligations to the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation under the adhesion to Treaty No. 6.” The transfer of the lands was made to fulfill 1997 and 2003 agreements between the federal and provincial governments and Mathias Colomb Cree Nation to set aside unoccupied Crown land as reserve lands.
The Wilderness Committee previously announced its opposition to the proposed Reed Mine because it is located in a provincial park and past mining projects in the area have shown that the environmental impact of mineral extraction doesn’t end when mines shut down. Grass River Provincial Park was also the site of Hudbay’s Spruce Point Mine, which was in operation from 1981 to 1992. In a video of a visit to that site filmed in September 2011, Reder points out refuse including scrap metal and machine parts as well as areas devoid of vegetation.
“This points to a dangerous and invisible threat to this area – toxic soil that is contaminated with heavy metal,” Reder says in the video, which can be seen on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXel7or6hd4
Manitoba’s Green Party is also concerned that the location of the proposed Reed Mine and the exploration activities currently taking place will disrupt the spring migration of woodland caribou, which give birth to calves on the islands of Reed, Iskwasum and Simonhouse lakes, which are all located within Grass River Provincial Park. According to the party, caribou calves typically die within a week if their mothers can not get to the islands, where they are protected from wolves.
“Parks are formed where there is some natural wonder of particular value to the people in Manitoba. Grass River Provincial Park was created to protect the wildlife of Reed Lake. Now the Manitoba NDP are willing to throw away wildlife preservation in favour of five short years of copper ore” says James Beddome, leader of the Manitoba Greens. “By allowing Hudbay mining to start construction before consulting the public, the NDP have clearly signalled that they value money more than wildlife. In five years, the ore from this mine will be exhausted and the jobs will be gone, but the caribou herd will be decimated.”
Exploration activities are currently underway and Hudbay, which owns 70 per cent of the project, hopes to extract 1,300 tonnes of copper per day if the mine is approved.
The proposed mine is expected to be in production for approximately five years, during which time 2.16 million tones of copper ore will be extracted and then trucked to and processed in Flin Flon, according to a project overview prepared by AECOM on behalf of Hudbay. At full production, the mine would provide 88 jobs, the company says.
Under a previously approved advanced exploration project (AEP), Hudbay has upgraded the previously existing access road, constructed a site office and change house, and built a 2,500-cubic-metre polishing pond and waste pad, as well as a maintenance shop and warehouse. It has also developed the portal and decline needed to provide access to the ore body to a depth of 30 metres. The AEP site consists of about seven cleared hectares of land, half of the originally planned 14 hectares. If the mine is approved, Hudbay would also construct a 50-person camp at the site along with one 18,927-litre holding tank for the storage of sewage and grey water.
Reder said that allowing exploration activities to proceed so far before an Environmental Act License is approved makes the public consultation process farcical. Feb. 19 was the deadline to submit comments on the project to the Environmental Assessment and Licensing Branch.
“As is often the case with the Manitoba government, the construction on site is so far along as to render the public consultation meaningless,” said Reder. “Even without full approval of this mine, the impact of this exploration will be visible in the forest for the next half century.”