Why privatizing First Nation resources is a really dumb idea – by James Munson (ipolitics.com – April 10, 2014)


In the clamour of capitalism that is the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention in Toronto, at least one tiny mining company wasn’t willing to move with the pack.

Golden Predator Mining Corp., a junior with gold properties in the Yukon owned by Americas Bullion Royalty Corp., has had its life made complicated by aboriginal land right regimes in the territory, but it wasn’t willing to criticize those rights as a whole.

Janet Lee-Sheriff, vice-president of communications and First Nations relations for the firm, refused to describe a 2012 Yukon Court of Appeal decision as a hindrance to business, as many in her industry have over the past year. The decision, which expanded a company and mining department’s duty to consult an aboriginal community all the way up to the early staking process, wasn’t a bad thing if you knew how to engage a community, she said.

The Fraser Institute couldn’t disagree more. And it couldn’t be more presumptuous. The policy direction of the last 40 years – whereby negotiations, agreements and Supreme Court decisions have grown and expanded aboriginal rights over resources to ever-unprecedented levels – hasn’t been a good thing for miners, according to one of the authors of Divergent Mineral Rights Regimes, a report released by the institute last week.

Instead of bringing clarity over Canada’s land laws, they’ve added uncertainty for potential investors. “That uncertainty is somewhat anathema to mining companies because is a long-term activity,” said Kenneth Green, the report’s project director, in an interview last week. “You pump money into the ground long before you get anything out.”

The solution, which Green and his colleague John Dobra arrived at by comparing the Canadian and U.S. mineral rights regimes, is to slowly privatize lands claimed by aboriginal communities where resources lie.

The Fraser Institute might not be in the business of running the country, but it is in the business of recommending policy to those who do.

On that level, the mineral regimes report falls completely flat. It provides zero benefit to Canadian policy-makers by conveniently ignoring the reality that miners like Golden Predator are facing on the ground today.

How could it be so out of touch? The report does it by assuming an idea deeply rooted in some parts of Canada: aboriginal land claims are bad for business, always have been, and always will be.

But that just isn’t what’s happening.

Over 40 per cent of Canada’s land mass is covered by modern aboriginal land claims. In those places, resource extraction – think Nunavut, Yukon, parts of the Northwest Territories and Quebec – isn’t collapsing because of the agreements with the aboriginal peoples who live there. It’s happening. A lot.

In other parts of the country where either outstanding claims exist or where aboriginal communities who signed treaties a century ago are demanding the status quo interpretation of those treaties be revisited, the federal and provincial governments are moving to acquiesce to those demands more than they are openly suggesting they should be ignored.

For the rest of this article, click here: http://www.ipolitics.ca/2014/04/09/why-privatizing-first-nation-resources-is-a-really-dumb-idea/

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