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Judge nixes stop-work order; miner forges on

First Nation wants to evict firm from land

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Leaders of the Red Sucker Lake First Nation terminated a memorandum of understanding with Mega Precious Metals Inc.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES Enlarge Image

Leaders of the Red Sucker Lake First Nation terminated a memorandum of understanding with Mega Precious Metals Inc. Photo Store

A court has granted a mineral-exploration company a temporary injunction against an eviction notice and a stop-work order obtained by a Manitoba First Nation.

The injunction means Mega Precious Metals Inc. can continue to operate.

The spat between the company and Red Sucker Lake First Nation (RSLFN) broke out this week after more than two years of apparent co-operation between the two.

However, First Nation officials were frustrated at what some say was the lack of jobs or training opportunities and growing environmental concerns.

The chief and council terminated a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Mega -- one of only three such agreements that have ever been negotiated in the province -- and evict the mining company from the band's land.

But the company received an injunction from the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench.

The order authorizes the arrest of anyone obstructing, trespassing or creating a nuisance or "engaging in any act which interferes with the operations of the Monument Bay project."

The injunction is valid until Thursday.

In its first public statement since it received the eviction notice Monday, company CEO Glen Kuntz said, "Mega believes the company has, and continues to demonstrate our respect for Red Sucker Lake First Nations' treaty rights. Mega plans to continue to meet with community members and provide project updates on a regular basis in an effort to maintain our social licence to operate."

Mega Precious Metals is in the process of proving up a gold reserve called Monument Bay in a location about 60 kilometres north of Red Sucker Lake ,which is within the band's traditional area.

The company said it has spent about $2.1 million in the community including more than $400,000 to the RSLFN to fund two positions for community liaison officers between the Monument Bay project and the community as well as to fund a land-use study.

In a news release last month, Kuntz said Monument Bay has the potential "to become Canada's next great gold mine."

Red Sucker Lake is about 700 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

The company statement said: "Mega Precious Metals is surprised and disheartened by the action taken by the RSLFN" and that as recently as March 26, a report signed off by Chief Leslie Harper stated the RSLFN is content with Mega Precious Metals in community relations.

But ongoing frustration over what some community members believe to be a lack of good faith regarding jobs or training for a potential future mine led to a community consensus in April to terminate the MOU.

A source familiar with the situation but who spoke on condition his name not be used, said there is growing concern environmental conditions in the area are deteriorating and the province continues to issue permits to the mining company without consulting the First Nation.

In a letter to Mega's board of directors, RSLFN Chief Les Harper said, "Mega Precious Metals Inc. has been issued unlawful work and camp permits by the Province of Manitoba which is adversely impacting the exercise of treaty rights and our management of our lands."

In an email exchange, an official with the provincial Department of Innovation, Energy and Mines said, "Whenever work permits for mineral-exploration activities are applied for by a company, Manitoba Innovation, Energy and Mines will consult with First Nations and aboriginal communities that may be affected and the consultations will be considered in making decisions about the work permit, including conditions of the work permit."

 

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 5, 2013 B6

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