Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mining firm seeks to end roadblocks

Heading to court to obtain injunction

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One of the biggest employers in northern Manitoba wants a judge to do what the RCMP won't -- stop a Manitoba First Nation from putting up Idle No More roadblocks at its mining sites.

Lawyers for Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting will be in court Wednesday to get an injunction to stop the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation and Chief Arlen Dumas from engaging in any acts that interfere with the mining company and its employees, court documents filed last week in Court of Queen's Bench say.

HBM&S also wants an order for RCMP to arrest anyone who contravenes that injunction.

"I am concerned that if further blockages occur, the RCMP will require a court order to take steps to enforce compliance with HBM&S's right to access to and from its projects and mining operations in Manitoba," HBM&S vice-president Brad Lantz said in an affidavit.

Members of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation have blocked access to the HBM&S Lalor project near Snow Lake twice this year and have threatened to blockade access to the company's Reed Lake copper mine, 120 kilometres east of Flin Flon.

Lantz said at the two Lalor project blockades RCMP attended, but took no action to restrain protesters from interfering with access to company property.

RCMP and other police services have been criticized for refusing to enforce court injunctions in other provinces to end rail blockades by the Idle No More movement.

Lantz said safety and business concerns are behind the company's court action. HBM&S has spent about $26 million developing its Reed Lake project and expects to spend a further $44 million this year.

At its Lalor site, where a gold, zinc and copper mine is being developed, HBM&S says it needs unrestricted access to maintain its three-kilometre underground ramp.

"A power failure could interrupt the downcast fans, which supply the underground portions of the operation with fresh air," the documents say.

The documents also say the two blockades to date have also caused tension among employers and contractors who believe their right to come to work and go home at the end of their shift has been infringed. The blockades lasted about three or four hours.

The First Nation isn't about to be intimidated by a Canadian mining giant, Chief Dumas said at a press conference on Monday. He said he believes HudBay's response to two "peaceful" demonstrations is "heavy-handed."

"I think it's completely unreasonable. There are other ways to move this issue forward. A lawsuit isn't going to deter us," he said.

The chief, along with other MCCN members and Idle No More supporters, visited HudBay's Lalor Lake mine project on Jan. 28 and March 5 to serve two "stop-work" orders to the mining company and the province.

MCCN maintains the proposed Lalor Lake project is on unceded territory and HudBay did not obtain its consent to operate there and extract resources.

John Vincic, HudBay's vice-president of investor relations and corporate communications, said the relationship between the two sides has been cordial and respectful for the last two years. For example, each has shared environmental-impact information with the other and HudBay is funding a study looking at the historical use of the land.

The way to resolve the issues, however, is for government, industry and First Nations leaders to meet around the Mining Association of Manitoba negotiating table.

"We invite Chief Dumas and other leaders to join us at the table," Vincic said.

A group of chiefs and supporters marched from the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs headquarters at 275 Portage Avenue to 201 Portage, the Portage and Main skyscraper that houses both HudBay and its law firm, Thompson Dorfman Sweatman, Monday.

-- with files from The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 19, 2013 A4

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