First Nations and Mining

first nations and miningFirst Nations and Mining: Canadian Supreme Court Ruling for First Nations

The First Nations are now armed with a Supreme Court ruling. Mining companies are taking notice of this. The Tahltan First Nation announced that they are planning a title and aboriginal rights claim. This announcement came hours after the Tsilhqot’in First Nation received their ruling. Both tribes are fighting against the construction of mines on their land.

The Supreme Court Ruling

The Supreme Court’s landmark history-making ruling confirms that the Tsilhqot’in’s have title to their traditional territory land. It also finds that the government of British Columbia violated its fiduciary responsibility when it distributed licenses to harvest timber in Tsilhqot’in land in 1983.

Chief Joe Alphonse spoke about the ruling saying that this brings them one step closer to being independent, without living on handouts. The Tsilhqot’ins are the first Indians in Canada to own their own land. Furthermore, they wish to be free to govern their own people independently. It is likely that more cases are pending, or are going to be started, by tribes throughout Canada. The tribe’s hope is to use the Supreme Court ruling to put a stop to the construction of the New Prosperity copper mine on their land, which was proposed by Taseko Mines.

The Tahltan have the same thing in mind. They want to stop Fortune Minerals’ proposed Arctos Anthracite Coal project. The president of the Tahltan Central Council, Annita McPhee, expressed her gratitude for the Tsilhqot’in people. She stated that it was a historical day for the First Nations people of Canada. The Arctos Anthracite Coal project is in Sacred Headwaters, which is considered to be a traditional hunting ground for the Tahlton tribe. They do not want any development in that area. McPhee says that she has tried to get Fortune Minerals to stop, but said they will not listen. So, she and her tribe will fight them legally.

Canadian Mining Companies

This Supreme Court ruling means that Canadian mining companies, looking to start mining projects on First Nations land, may have to look elsewhere. The Tahlton tribe has already hired a lawyer to prepare their claim to receive the same recognition that the Tsilhqot’in was granted from the Supreme Court. Since it has been ruled in favor of the Tsilhqot’in tribe, it is likely that more tribes will win recognition for their land as well.

However, this will not restrict mining companies from starting projects on all First Nations land in Canada. The Tahlton are negotiating with Imperial Metals for an agreement on the Red Chris Mine. It is scheduled for commissioning in August. The tribes are not looking to put a stop to all mining on their land, but simply wish to be able to govern their own region. The First Nations people have been empowered to express their needs with this ruling. Canadian mining companies, who currently have mines on First Nations land, might want to negotiate with the tribes to avoid future problems.