Challenging colonial mining laws: First Nations fight for Indigenous consent – by Sara Ghebremusse, Allen Edzerza, Carol Liao, Nadja Kunz & Philippe Tortell National Observer – May 15, 2023)

Over most of the past month, the B.C. Supreme Court has heard a challenge brought by the Gitxaała and Ehattesaht First Nations against the province’s decision to award multiple mineral claims in their unceded territories.

This judicial review is essential to reforming the colonial-era Mineral Tenure Act (MTA), which permits mineral claims to take place without Indigenous consent. It could also set the stage for the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA) in all future mineral exploration projects.

Passed in 2019, DRIPA mandates the province to “take all measures necessary” to ensure B.C. laws are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). While its 2022 DRIPA Action Plan indicates the province commits to modernizing the antiquated MTA in consultation with First Nations, no implementation plan for this has been developed, leaving the B.C. Supreme Court with the task of determining a path forward.

If the province is serious about implementing DRIPA and aligning B.C. laws with UNDRIP, any changes to the MTA must prioritize Indigenous consent. Some exploration companies are already moving in this direction.

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