Wahgoshig First Nation wins in court to protect Aboriginal and treaty rights

From Norhern Ontario Business


Superior Court sides with First Nation in drilling dispute

By: Northern Ontario Business staff

A northeastern Ontario First Nation won its injunction fight in Ontario Superior Court against a junior miner that was conducting unapproved exploration drilling on its traditional territory.

In a decision released Jan. 3, Justice Carole Brown ordered Solid Gold Resources to stop drilling for 120 days while the company and the Ontario government pay for a third party mediator to begin a consultation process with the Wahgoshig First Nation.

Justice Brown said the company made a “wilful effort not to consult” with the community despite provincial requests to do since 2009.

The community claims the area the company was exploration drilling contains ancient burial grounds and many sacred sites.

The company argued it had no legal responsibility to consult and said it was the legal duty of the Crown.

In a Jan 4 statement released by Mining Watch, Wahgoshig Chief David Babin feels more precedence has been set with the decision and that exploration companies will have to recognize Aboriginal and treaty rights.

“We are very pleased with this decision. We feel that justice has been done.”

Temiskaming Shores MPP John Vanthof (NDP) blamed the provincial government for failing to fulfill its obligation to consult with First Nations.

“By ignoring First Nations at the outset of the exploration process, the government is, in fact, slowing down mine development and hindering economic opportunities throughout the province.”

Vanthof said a Nov. 8 letter from the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines confirmed that consultation with the First Nation regarding Solid Gold's exploration activity had been “inadequate.”


From the Toronto Sun

Mining company prez blasts First Nation injunction win


TIMMINS - Wahgoshig First Nation has won an injunction to halt mining exploration in an area it claims as sacred ground.

In a decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice delivered Tuesday, Solid Gold Resource Corp. was ordered to stop drilling on its claims block near Wahgoshig for 120 days.

The court ordered that Solid Gold and Wahgoshig must enter into a process of “meaningful consultation and accommodation” during this injunction period.

If a resolution is not reached, Wahgoshig can seek an extension of the injunction at that time.

Darryl Stretch, president of Solid Gold, said it was a “very bad day for mineral and mining exploration in Canada.”

He told QMI Agency his company had gone through the proper channels with the provincial government only to be “blindsided” by unresolved treaty claims.

“I have to tell you, I have a lot of animosity towards the Crown (province) right at this moment,” Stretch said. “I spent $5 million of shareholders’ money and invested it in that area because the Crown invited us to do that — in fact, encouraged us to do that.

"And at the time we began that process in 2007, knowing we were going to have a good gold mining market and it was going to be a good time to explore, it was one of the best places on the planet to explore because the Mining Act allows us to go in there, do what was necessary and still take care of the environment, the Cemeteries Act and all the other things explorers have to do in the 21st century. We did all of those things, and we get blindsided by First Nations.

“All they have to do anymore is say, ‘Oh, that’s sacred ground over there. We don’t know where the bodies are but it’s up to you guys to go find them for us. And until you’ve done that, it’s all sacred ground. And you can’t do anything there until you get our permission.' ”

Stretch said he would have expected Wahgoshig’s treaty claims to have been resolved long before the government opened the area for exploration and mineral staking.

“I think it’s virtually impossible to do exploration now unless you pay the First Nations.”

The decision, he added, will make other junior exploration companies wary of investing in Canada.

Stretch said there were “about 25 people working on this project and believe me when I tell you, they are all out of work.”

While admitting to his frustration by the court’s decision, Stretch said, “We’re obviously interested in looking for that resolution. Somehow, the parties have to heal.

"I always thought it was for government to do those kinds of things, to make things comfortable. But I guess in this case, it was easier to throw Solid Gold under the bus than it was to negotiate something with the First Nations that everyone could live with.”