Score one for Ontario. A mining strategist said the Ontario government won an impressive victory in its court case against a Sudbury exploration company that sued the province for breach of its duty to consult with a northwestern Ontario First Nation band.
Waterloo-based natural resources consultant Bill Gallagher considers the May 25 ruling in an Ontario Superior Court of Justice a landmark decision, not just for Ontario but across Canada. “It is the most important ruling in terms of getting this country up and running in the mining sector on the duty to consult.”
He’s also called it an indirect legal win for First Nations even though they were not a party to the lawsuit. The trial, which took place last October, wrapped up on May 25 when Justice Thomas Lederer dismissed the company’s claim against the Ontario government.
Northern Superior Resources, a Sudbury junior miner, sued the province in October 2013 and was seeking $25 million in compensation after claiming it lost access to its gold properties near the Manitoba border following a series of disputes with a First Nation band, Sachigo Lake, two years earlier.
They blamed the government for allegedly failing to carry out its duty to consult with the band. New amendments to the province’s Mining Act, where the Crown had delegated those duties over to industry, had not yet come into force.
One of the issues in the disputes was an alleged demand from the band that the company pay them a 24 per cent “administration fee” to be drawn from the company’s exploration budget.
When the company refused, they claimed the band served them with an “eviction notice,” forcing them to leave the area.
The company originally sued for $110 million, but later dropped it to $25 million in an unsuccessful attempt to reach a settlement with the province.
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