Rick Bartolucci, Minister of Northern Development and Mines
The Ministry of Northern Development and Mines has responed to questions about their approach to work with Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation. Adrian Kupesic, spokesmen for the ministry says that they have been trying for quite some time to work with the First Nation.
"Over the past three years dating back to 2009 staff from our ministry have made several offers to visit KI to better understand the communities assertions regarding burial grounds in the area and explore ways in which we can protect them. To date the ministry's requests have gone unanswered," he said.
He added that they are still hopeful that an agreement can be reached between themselves and God's Lake Resources.
"We're always hopeful and I think that in this particular circumstance we were in discussion with both side for some time we obviously feel the negotiations are best left for the bargaining table however we did reach an agreement to resolve this ongoing issue between the company and KI," he said.
Kenora-Rainy River MPP Sarah Campbell says the Ontario government is once again wasting taxpayers dollars because of Minister of Northern Development and Mines Rick Bartolucci's refusal to take a proactive approach to work
with First Nations and mining companies in Ontario’s North.
On March 29, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines entered into a $3.5 million settlement with God’s Lake Resources, compensating the company for abandoning all claims near the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation. These steps would have been unnecessary, says Campbell, had the government made a real effort to facilitate discussions between the two sides, rather than refuse to meet with the First Nations’ leadership and sit on the sideline until it was too late.
"The ministry could have avoided this by working with KI and setting up the joint panel promised to them back in 2009, which was to resolve outstanding issues between the community, the province and mining companies," Campbell said in a prepared statement. "To date, the panel has not been struck and there has been no clear commitment on the part of the government to create the panel."
The band council say they had warned Ontario officials that they were repeating mistakes made. Taxpayers paid $5 million to mining exploration company Platinex in 2008 to buy out the company’s claims and leases, following a dispute with KI over unwanted drilling and mining exploration.
Earlier this week, the community leadership repeated its willingness to negotiate development on their traditional lands.
Mining Minister Rick Bartolucci has maintained the government was willing to discuss the issues with the First Nations, and they're working on amendments to the Mining Act, which would include a conflict resolution mechanism.
In December 2008, the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the rights of the First Nation to defend their traditional lands against unwanted development.
To read the ruling:
Ontario Court of Appeal - Platinex ruling