Manitoba Growth, Enterprise and Trade Minister Cliff Cullen has pledged a target of May 2017 or earlier to create a framework for the consultation process with indigenous people on mining and exploration projects. It’s a step many people within the mineral sector say is overdue and would help bolster an industry that has been shedding jobs in the province for years.
Cullen has long been critical of the previous NDP government’s policy toward the constitutionally required “duty to consult” with First Nations on resource projects that involve traditional indigenous territory.
He spoke of clarifying that process while in Flin Flon in September, but last week he went a step further by telling mineral sector leaders that a new framework would be complete within six months, according to the Winnipeg Free Press.
Cullen had previously said it was crucial that the parties involved in a consultation understand there is “a time process factor” involved, adding: “At the end of the day, you want to get a mine established, and that’s where the real economy comes, so that’s our mandate.”
The province is also looking to make Manitoba’s mining tax regime more competitive, speed up the permitting process and allow exploration on some land that was previously declared out of bounds, Cullen told last week’s Manitoba Mining and Minerals Convention in Winnipeg, as quoted by the Free Press.
In its coverage of the convention, the newspaper cited some promising developments in the mining sector, including ongoing drilling at the long-idle Puffy Lake gold mine near Sherridon and Callinex Mines’ promising Pine Bay project near Flin Flon.
But there was also a reminder from Mark Scott, vice-president of Vale’s Thompson operations, of the challenges. According to the Free Press, he referred to the planned closure of the Thompson nickel smelter in 2018 and the retirement of Hudbay’s 777 mine in Flin Flon in 2020.
The newspaper called 777 “Hudbay’s bread-and-butter legacy mine,” though even some within the company workforce believe this is a title more suited for Lalor mine near Snow Lake – an operation that relies on many Flin Flon-based employees who commute to and from work.
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