In the face of a looming conflict, the Ontario government has paid out $3.5 million to junior gold mining company God's Lake Resources (GLR) to surrender their mining claims in land that was placed under a moratorium against mining by Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation, according to a March 29th announcement from the provincial government.
"This settlement responds to KI's concerns, while allowing GLR to move forward with mineral exploration in other parts of the province in the future," reads a statement from the Ontario government.
"KI is pleased that Ontario has acted to protect the KI sacred landscape but disappointed that GLR was able to apparently unjustly enrich themselves at the hands of tax payers," said KI Chief Donny Morris, who called the decision "bittersweet."
This settlement is the second time that a mining company has received a multi-million dollar payout from the McGuinty government to give-up its mining claim on lands in which KI claims jurisdiction. In 2009, $5 million was paid to gold mining company, Platinex.
In 2008, six members of KI, including Morris, were jailed for blocking Platinex from mining on their land, in violation of a court injunction. The incident brought the matter into the headlines and significant pressure was placed on the McGuinty government.
A comment made to an article on the Northern Ontario Business website, highlights the fact the companies made millions in both incidents.
"I'm packing my prospecting tools now and just finished establishing my own exploration firm... K.I. territory here I come! In 6 months time, I should be $4 million richer," wrote EDH in a comment. "Gives a whole new meaning to a gold rush for mining companies."
Adrian Kupesic, a spokesperson for the Ministery of Northern Development and Mines, said he rejected the premise that mining companies would be enticed to seek claims and begin prospecting on burial grounds and other sites that are sacred to first nations in order to make money from the ensuing settlements. "this a unique occurrence and every situation is dealt with in a case by case basis."
He pointed to the approximately 23,000 square kilometres of land that were withdrawn from mining in KI lands earlier this month by the provincial government. The withdrawn land did not include the claim held by GLR.
GLR has not yet responded to a request for comment.
"KI has a sacred duty under KI Law to assert jurisdiction, care for the land and protect and honour sacred landscapes and graves of our ancestors," said Morris. "That is why we went to jail in the past and that is why we will defend out lands in the future."
KI and the Ontario government both assert jurisdiction over the land in question.
KI has now called for the resumption of Government to Government talks aimed at resolving their difference. These talk were called off by KI in November 2011, when the provincial government refused to make assurances that GLR would not be allowed to proceed with mining.
"I want to send a deadline for the ontario government to come meet with the community leaders and sit down so these things don't keep popping up." Morris told the Toronto Media Coop.
Kupesic had a contradicting statement, he told the Toronto Media Coop that "Over the past three years Ministry staff have made several offers to visit the KI lands to better understand the communities assertions on burial grounds and other cultural significant sites in the area and explore ways in which we can protect them. to date our ministry's request have gone unanswered."
"We need to see the benefits that are extracted from out resources" saying that they would keep their moratorium in place until they are ready to govern and structure development on their lands.
The Media Coop covered a protest that took place in support of KI earlier this month.