Group claims violation of UNDRIP rights; province and junior miner cite over a decade of support for consultation and attempts at engagement thwarted
A First Nation in northern Ontario, citing infringement of sacred territory, has sued the province and a prospector for $80 million in damages and an injunction to stop further exploration work and commercialization of hard rock gold claims said to contain tens of millions of ounces.
In response, the Ontario government cites support it’s provided since 2008 to boost the indigenous community’s capacity for consultation including in terms of mineral development.
The prospector, now in his mid-70s, similarly points to years of engagement efforts that met with “non-engagement and delay,” as well as “intensive logging and exploration activities” that have already occurred on the land under dispute.
The gold-rich region in question is near Geraldton, northwestern Ont., north of Lake Superior. It’s a historic mining and logging district that’s seen prospecting and drilling since the 1930s. From then until around 1970, over two million ounces of gold had been mined there.
This northwestern area of Ontario is also home to the Matawa First Nations, of which Ginoogaming First Nation (GFN) is a member community.
In the lawsuit, GFN is claiming a lack of consultation over prospecting that disturbed its sacred areas and violated indigenous rights protected under section 35 of the Constitution. It also accuses Ontario of breaking a United Nations doctrine recently enacted in B.C. while similar federal legislation is currently being fast-tracked through Parliament.
“Damages from … Ontario and Quaternary [Mining & Exploration Company Ltd.] for unjustified infringement of Ginoogaming’s rights and for breach of duty to consult and accommodate in respect of the permit [is] currently estimated in the amount of $80 million,” says GFN’s statement of claim filed at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Nov. 4, 2020.
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