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Nisga'a in talks for mine money

The Nisga'a Lisims Government is in talks with the province for a share of the mineral taxes to come from Avanti Mining’s planned $1 billion molybdenum mine at Kitsault on the north coast.

The talks follow similar agreements struck between the province and First Nations elsewhere in the province where mineral developments are located within traditional territories.

Although the Kitsault project is not within Nisga’a lands set out in the Nisga’a Final Agreement it is within the area where the Nisga’a have an influence on development and where they have fishing rights.

There’s no indication of how advanced the talks are or of their specific details.

“The province is in the process of actively negotiating an [Economic Community Development Agreement] on Kitsault with the Nisga’a and looks forward to concluding the ECDA in the near future,” indicates a statement from the provincial aboriginal affairs and reconciliation ministry.

The provincial policy of providing a portion of mineral tax revenues to First Nations dates back to 2008 with the goal that monies provided by use to finance health, education and other programs.

In the north, the first such agreement was signed in the fall of 2010 with the Fort McLeod Band to provide it with mineral tax monies from the Mount Milligan copper and gold mine between  Fort St. James and Mackenzie which opened last fall.

Based on the agreement, the Fort McLeod Band could receive between $34 million and $38 million over the projected 23-year life of the mine.

Also about to start are talks between the Nisga’a and Avanti itself for the latter to provide a share of revenues from the project.

Commonly called impact benefits agreements, they can take the form of direct payments, contracts with First Nations companies, other financial assistance and even a share of the project itself.

Avanti president Gordon Bogden, in the area last week for a series of meetings, said the company was about to sign a confidentiality agreement with the Nisga’a in advance of the negotiations.

“We’re looking at them as partners – shared benefits – as we move forward,” he said. Citing the confidentiality aspect of striking what he referred to as a commercial arrangement, Bogden declined to provide further details.

“We are very engaged, with the community [in the Nass Valley] and with the four [Nisga’a] villages,” he said.

Nisga’a officials last week declined comment. But they have in the past said they’d pursue revenue sharing with the provincial government.

Negotiations between the Nisga’a and the province and, soon, Avanti, follow legal moves taken by the Nisga’a opposing provincial environmental approval last spring of the mine project.

In advance of provincial approval, the Nisga’a filed an objection to the project by using a section of the 2000 Nisga’a final land claims agreement.

The Nisga’a said environmental and social economic studies were either inadequate or incomplete. Based on those assertions, the Nisga’a enacted provisions of the final agreement which set in motion discussions meant to resolve disputes between parties.

But they also followed up that up by filing a petition the end of July 2013 asking the B.C. Supreme Court to order the suspension of the provincial environmental certificate until the dispute resolution process had been completed.

“British Columbia has acted other than in accordance with the honour of the Crown in issuing the [environmental] decision and [environmental] certificate, in undue and deliberate haste, five days after receiving the Notice of Disagreement delivered by the Nisga’a Nation triggering the dispute resolution process ….,” the petition stated.

The application was to be heard last September but it has now been adjourned.

“The Nisga’a injunction application of September 23, 2013 was adjourned and negotiations with the Nisga’a are continuing,” said a statement late last week from the province. No further details were provided.

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