Growing impatient, Nahanni Butte starts building own road to mine – by Mark Rendell (CBC News North – January 30, 2017)

After waiting nearly three years for the approval of an all-season road into the heart of Nahanni National Park, the Nahanni Butte Dene Band began cutting its own path last week. The proposed road to the Prairie Creek zinc mine has been limping through the Mackenzie Valley Review Board’s environmental assessment process since mid-2014.

“We’ve been waiting well over two years for this so-called permitting process to give the green-light for the road,” said Mark Pocklington, the communities senior administrative officer. “And, in this process, the review board and others have put demands on further and further studies.”

Growing impatient, Nahanni Butte Chief Peter Marcellais gave the go-ahead to community members to start cutting a trail across Indian Affairs Branch land — set aside by the federal government for the band’s residential use — near the community.

“It’s going through our IAB lands so nobody can tell us anything because it’s our land,” Marcellais said.

“There’s really nothing else happening,” he said. “We’re really just trying to create jobs, and all [our] youth summer camps, they’re right on the trail themselves. It’s just something for them to do, and we’re having the elders go with them, just to show them how to work a chainsaw and stuff like that.”

Pocklington said the trail could eventually be five metres wide and up to 60 kilometers long, running to “the second gap,” where the community hopes to set up a youth camp and wellness centre.

“It shows the community is not just sitting around talking about something,” Pocklington said. “They are genuinely keen to let everyone know that we believe the road is beneficial to everyone in the region, and we don’t see anything wrong with an access trail to get things started.”

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