New Prosperity Mine – Native Legal Win # 191

The Order in Council that gave this ill-executed project the ‘thumbs-down’ comes from the highest authority in government – the federal cabinet. Thus the ministerial order, following a quasi-judicial regulatory outcome, is akin to a major court ruling.

It’s a huge win for the native side. This outcome followed a concerted lobbing effort by industry, politicians, and local interests who went to Ottawa and engaged with ministers. So did the opposing side – except the highest they got was the ADM level. No matter. The decision is unequivocal and ‘ices’ the New Prosperity project. If ever there was an outcome that underscores that natives are Resource Rulers – this is it!

Here’s the definition that the project foundered on: Sec 5 ‘environmental effects”:

(c) with respect to aboriginal peoples, an effect occurring in Canada of any change that may be caused to the environment on
(i) health and socio-economic conditions,
(ii) physical and cultural heritage,
(iii) the current use of lands and resources for traditional purposes, or
(iv) any structure, site or thing that is of historical, archaeological, paleontological or architectural significance. (author’s underlining)

The project proponents first failed to convince the environmental review panel that these impacts could be mitigated, and then the responsible minister endorsed that finding. Tellingly, this has now happened a second time, less than five years apart.

I’ve been saying throughout my Resource Rulers presentations that if the federal government wanted to dilute aboriginal power in the resources sector, they would have amended the foregoing definition. And not only have they not done so; two powerful federal ministers have upheld the integrity of both process outcomes (Jim Prentice / Leona Aglukkaq). It’s no wonder then that Tsilhqot’in Chief Joe Alphonse reacted by saying the result: ‘restores his faith in the regulatory process’.  … for First Nations across Canada, this process does work, stick with it and take the high road.’

Federal Environment Minister Aglukkaq is Inuk from Nunavut. The Inuit are (from my Voisey’s Bay IBA experience) totally business orientated and pro-sustainable development. Witness their major successes at Raglan, Voisey’s Bay, Meadowbank and (pending) Baffinland. Did senior management at Taseko not realize that they were addressing a Minister whose homeland has one of the best records in mining in the country, and one who has an impeccable record as a key member of the Harper government, now representing Canada on the International Arctic Council?

It sure looks that way!


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