Progress on First Nations’ stake in mining bodes well


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More progress is being made to lessen the atmosphere of uncertainty around resource development in northern Manitoba.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 28/11/2015 (2672 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

More progress is being made to lessen the atmosphere of uncertainty around resource development in northern Manitoba.

Earlier this month, the provincial government started negotiations with a First Nations/mining industry council toward sharing some portion of the provincial mining tax with First Nations whose traditional land is affected by resource development.

The Nov. 16 throne speech included a commitment from the NDP for new support for indigenous land-use planning.

This week, Premier Greg Selinger said the province would come up with funding to do so, but didn’t promise an exact amount.

Environmental groups, indigenous communities and the mining industry see First Nations land-use planning as crucial for successful resource development in Manitoba’s north.

It is an issue that has caused a degree of uncertainty and has contributed to a downgrade in Manitoba’s reputation in the broader industry context.

In an interview with the Free Press, Selinger said he would like to see some money flow before the next provincial budget.

A proposal was made to the province for $150,000 per year for each community engaged in the process, which can take between three and five years to complete.

Selinger said that’s a reasonable proposal.

“It allows them to get the capacity and training and support they need to make informed recommendations on what the land-use plan should be,” he said.

Ron Evans, chief of the Norway House Cree Nation and co-chairman of the two-year-old mining advisory council, said communities want to be able to welcome development when opportunities arise, but need to be organized to protect traditional land.

“We desperately need them (development opportunities), and we need to eliminate any fear and concern around that,” Evans said. “But we need to protect those areas (burial grounds, moose hunting area, traditional medicine sites). In the past, there was no serious attention to address those concerns. Now there will be.”

However, it’s not yet carved in stone.

It is the second year in a row that such an initiative was included in the throne speech.

And while Selinger was up front with his verbal support, he has not yet fully committed.

Ron Thiessen, executive director of the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, said they are happy to hear the province will provide sufficient support for land-use planning but he wants Selinger to go further.

“The premier seemed very keen on that but he seemed reluctant to announce a dollar figure,” Thiessen said. “That is a disappointment at this time.”

That said, there is clearly momentum to move the matter along.

Manitoba got back into the top ranking of the Fraser Institute mining survey this year after ranking first in 2007 and then falling way back in the ensuing years.

Much of that was believed to be because of the ham-handed approach to consultation with First Nations.

But all parties concerned, including players in the mining industry, seem determined to create a better environment.

Tim Friesen, executive vice-president of the Mining Association of Manitoba, said having land-use preparedness in place so communities can respond in an informed way is important to the process.

“We certainly don’t want to go into an area and inadvertently disturb something that is important to the community,” Friesen said.

“This initiative represents an important step to sustainable development of Manitoba’s north.”

Martin Cash

Martin Cash

Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.

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