Up front negotiations vital [between First Nations and miners] – by Ron Grech (Timmins Daily Press – May 30, 2013)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

TIMMINS – It is believed there are enough mineral wealth within the Ring of Fire to boost the Northeastern economy for decades to come. However, any excitement from the mining industry has been tempered by a sense of impending conflict with First Nation communities in the region.

Phil Fontaine, former national chief of Assembly of First Nations, suggested conflicts are inevitable if mining companies play by the “old rules” and try imposing their will onto First Nation communities.

“Resource interests should strive to negotiate with First Nations up front instead of the way it was done in the past, as an afterthought,” said Fontaine, who was a keynote speaker at the Big Event mining expo in Timmins Thursday.

He stressed the importance of gaining an understanding and appreciation of the history and values of the people within the communities in which mining companies are proposing to work.

Fontaine noted when the discovery of the Ring of Fire was initially announced, there was “great excitement” about the “significant possibilities” for this region.

“The immediate response in the south was it will transform the region,” he said.

However, within the James Bay lowlands, the immediate response was concern about traplines, traditional hunting grounds and land rights.

For those who only saw the region for its potential billions of dollars in minerals, the notion that anyone would be worried about traplines was “thought absurd,” Fontaine said.

Even if companies are up front in their negotiations with First Nations, Fontaine said there are no guarantees to compliance. Industry needs to understand communities always have the prerogative to oppose a development proposal.

“One shouldn’t be alarmed at all when that happens,” Fontaine said to his luncheon audience in the McIntyre ballroom.

“Every community has a right to say no, just as they have a right to say yes. It would be unreasonable to think that they would say yes (to proposed developments) all the time.”

For the rest of this article, click here: http://www.timminspress.com/2013/05/30/up-front-negotiations-vital

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