“Premier’s Clark’s announcement yesterday comes before the environmental assessment (EA) process is even completed, so she’s already made a predetermination that this mine is going ahead before the EA has even finished its process, and what does that tell us about the whole EA process, and about consultation with First Nations. Obviously it doesn’t mean very much to them,” said Wilson.
He added his community was not informed about the announcement and he only found out about it through the media. Wilson was referring to the Premier’s announcement on Wednesday in China that Canadian Kailuan Dehua Mines Co. Ltd. – a partnership between the Kailuan Group Co. Ltd, Shougang Group and Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc. – will invest an estimated $860 million into the Gething Coal Mine project, proposed about 25 kilometres south of Hudson’s Hope.
He said his community has been negotiating with the proponents for about the last five years trying to get them to relocate the project because he said it would be located within 1,000 metres of a historical cultural area that is used today as a camp by the community.
“It’s a camp where we take our youth out, and we use it for hunting, gathering and teaching – we teach who we are as a people, as a Dene Tha' people, to our children. This is one of the last places we can go that is relatively undisturbed to carry on the peaceful enjoyment of our Treaty rights.”
Wilson said his community is not opposed to mining and is working through consultations in regards to other projects located in traditional territory, but he sees no solution other than to relocate the Gething project.
“We can’t have our camp if there’s mine there, so we would have to move, and there is nowhere else for us to move. They are literally on our back doorstep,” he said.
Both the Premier and a representative from the mining firm stated in press release on Thursday that they are committed to working with local stakeholders, including First Nations, on the project. The press release states that construction is anticipated to begin in about two years after the environmental assessment, permits and First Nations and community consultation are complete. The project is still in the pre-application satge of the EA process, which was initiated back in 2006.
Shane Mills, spokesperson for the Office of the Premier, added that the announcement was not meant to indicate approval of the project, rather just that the proponents were proceeding with it.
However, Chief Wilson was not the only local government leader caught of guard by the announcement, as Mayor Karen Anderson of Hudson’s Hope is quoted in the Vancouver Sun as saying she was told by the proponents back in September that the project was being abandoned because of the dispute with the West Moberly First Nations being irresolvable. She is quoted as saying the district is in favour of the project, but that the proponents also "walked away" from plans for a housing development on land they had purchased in the community.
The article also notes that there are two other Aboriginal groups have a territorial interest in the mine property.
The underground mine is expected to have a production rate of two million tonnes of coal over an estimated lifespan of 40 years, and according to the proponents, create 773 long-term direct jobs and 4,000 indirect jobs.
On Thursday, the Premier also announced a second investment by the Shandong Energy Feicheng Mining Group Co. Ltd. and Canadian Dehua International Mines Group Inc, worth $500 million into another mining project, the location of which is not being disclosed due to issues of confidentiality. The proponents of that project estimate over 2,000 local jobs will be created during construction and development of the project.