Former First Nations chief stakes legal claim on mining minister’s property – by Justine Hunter (Globe and Mail – January 24, 2017)

VICTORIA — A former First Nations chief who has battled the B.C. government over its mining policies says she has legally staked a claim on the private property of Minister of Energy and Mines Bill Bennett.

It took less than an hour for Bev Sellars, a lawyer and former chief of the Xat’sull First Nation at Soda Creek, to file an application with the province to become a free miner and then to use the ministry’s online registry to stake her claim for the right to explore a chunk of land that includes Mr. Bennett’s Cranbrook home.

“I really didn’t believe it was that easy, I was thinking, ‘holy smokes, this is crazy,’” Ms. Sellars said in an interview. Mr. Bennett declined an interview request on Tuesday, while he was attending a mining conference in Vancouver.

The Xat’sull First Nation was one of the communities affected by the collapse of the dam at the Mount Polley mine in 2014. The breach of the tailings pond dam spilled more than 20 million cubic metres of mine waste and water into surrounding rivers and lakes in the region, about 400 kilometres northeast of Vancouver near Quesnel Lake. As a result of that environmental disaster, Ms. Sellars’s community has pushed for a greater say in the development of mines in their territory.

Ms. Sellars is a part of the advocacy group First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining. She said in an interview on Tuesday that the ease with which mining companies can claim rights in First Nations’ territories has generated decades of conflict.

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