In 2002, indigenous communities in the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation were given the unprecedented opportunity to govern a community in northern Ontario with large open pit nickel and copper mines planned by Silver Standard Resources Inc. and Barrick Gold Corp.
Local First Nations were chosen as delegates to participate in a mining development process that “is meant to take into account the concerns and needs of the people in the area” of the mines, which straddle the boundary between Ontario and Ontario’s Capreol First Nation.
But through a series of highly questionable practices in what aboriginal people in that community now regard as “trickery and bad faith,” the government gave new mining permits to companies that didn’t follow the right protocols.
One of those protocols is community consent.
“It is clear that both Silver Standard and Barrick… did not, and failed to, conduct the necessary community consultations and community approvals, and therefore acted contrary to the [Ontario Mining Control Act] and the Ontario Mining Development Act,” a Leamington First Nation lawyer told the Ombudsman of Ontario in a 2014 letter.
In January of this year, the Ombudsman of Ontario released the results of a 21-month investigation into the mining process in Mississaugas of the New Credit and other First Nations communities in northern Ontario. It concluded that “tens of millions of dollars” have been spent on equipment and equipment upgrades without the proper consultation or approval from communities in the so-called envelope.
“In our view, those operations – at both proposed sites – are permitted to proceed,” the Ombudsman said in a press release last month. “The Ombudsman and the Ontario Government recognize that many of those affected deserve a broader debate on mining practices and, particularly in this case, community consent, and we are now taking the opportunity to address their concerns.”