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Platinex Prevented from Landing on First Nation

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Issue: 63 Section: Canadian News Geography: Ontario Topics: Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug

September 3, 2009

Platinex Prevented from Landing on First Nation

Boat, canoe block float planes from landing on KI traditional territory

by Jon Thompson

A canoe race in the remote community of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI). Photo: Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug

KENORA—A boat and a canoe outside of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) First Nation prevented a plane from landing on Nemeigusabins Lake, the First Nation’s traditional territory. The plane was transporting Platinex mining employees with the aim of conducting mineral surveys on KI land.

“They were told they weren’t welcome to come here,” said Coun. Samuel McKay. “We have been consistent because we don’t have anything to discuss with Platinex. Our discussion is with the province and the province keeps saying: ‘Talk to KI.’”

The majority of the community watched as the plane circled and was held in the air. Between the shores and the band office, McKay said everyone who was able to come and support the chief and council did so.

“I think we’re doing good today,” McKay said in spite of a band release suggesting pending legal charges are to be laid against members of the community. “I think the community is happy because regardless of what other issues come into play, we accomplished what we wanted to do. We wanted to prevent Platinex from coming onto our territory and we achieved that.”

The First Nation’s leaders were arrested in September of 2007 for not allowing the junior mining company’s staff to pass through the community’s airport. The incident was heralded as the catalyst for rewriting Ontario’s Mining Act after their incarceration made them known as the KI-6.

Through the Mining Act’s revision, KI has been vocal in declaring a moratorium on mining development on its traditional land, although the First Nation has pointed out the province has not respected the wishes of the band, nor has it adequately consulted the First Nation on its development interests.

In a release on Platinex’s behalf, the company maintained it is the responsibility of the provincial government to uphold its license to drill on the property. President and CEO Jim Trusler said the company has “stayed on the sidelines” for almost a year and a half waiting for consultations between the province and the First Nation to reach a consensus. Trusler charged the province with not having engaged in the consultations as no resolution was reached.

“Clearly, Premier McGuinty and his officials either don’t care about this issue or simply decided to hide their heads in the sand, hoping Platinex and KI would go away. This is not the kind of leadership one would expect from the Premier of Ontario,” he said.

Committing to “behaving in a responsible manner during this extremely sensitive time,” Trusler called upon the premier to see to the issue personally to “resolve the situation once and for all.”

The Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry, Michael Gravelle rejected Chief Donny Morris’ claim McGuinty had not responded to a request for meetings. Gravelle claimed McGuinty had requested to hold meetings between the company and the First Nation. Moreover, he added his ministry had advised Platinex against taking Wednesday’s actions.

“I can’t see how the kind of confrontation that took place yesterday can be beneficial to anyone, certainly not Platinex,” Gravelle said. “We think there is an approach that can be taken that can be far more positive.”

Earlier this week, KI chief and council met with diamond giant De Beers in what the company and the First Nation both described as positive meetings with intention to meet further. McKay said the company respected the moratorium on development in a way the province and Platinex did not and that discussions “of a future working relationship” took place.

Gravelle too was supportive of the De Beers approach.

“This is a company that recognizes how important it is to develop relationships with First Nations before they go it,” he explained, citing the success of the company in negotiating for a diamond project in Attawapiskat. “They didn’t move forward before they had an impact agreement with the First Nation.”

Originally published in the Kenora Daily Miner & News.

Jon Thompson is a reporter at the Kenora Daily Miner & News.

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