Four First Nation groups have released a set of mining rules
to apply to all existing and proposed mining projects in the
Williams Lake area, in British Columbia (BC), Canada.
The new mining legislation was set by
Xat’sull (Soda Creek), T’exelc
(Williams Lake Indian Band), Tsq’escen (Canim
Lake) and Stswecem’c/Xgat’tem (Canoe
& Dog Creek) First Nation groups and covers an area of 5m
ha (50,000km2) in the Cariboo and Chilcotin regions
According to the policy, the First Nation will
lease permits for mining activities and will be notified by
Canada’s and BC’s government about
permits, applications and proposals, through written
The First Nation also requires active
participation in the final committee tasked with assessing
mining projects in BC and in the granting of mining rights. It
will also designate a natural resources manager for each mining
BC hosts several industrial minerals projects
including Taseko Mines and Commerce Resources’
niobium projects, International Montoro Resources’
Chucinka rare earths, Heemskirk Consolidated’s
Moberly frac sand, Encanto Potash Corp.’s
Muskowekman potash and Eagle Graphite Corp’s
graphite projects. In addition, Prima Diamond’s
Liard fluorspar project is also located in the northern part of
Reasons for new rules
Bev Sellars, chief of the Soda Creek First
Nation, said that the group has been continuously ignored by
mining operators in BC, with some of the companies claiming not
to know what First Nations want, due to the lack of "rules to
"Within this mining policy we can no longer be
ignored or imposed upon, and the province and industry can no
longer claim they do not know how to work with us," Sellars
said in a press release.
The mining code and a companion tool kit to
manage its implementation and enforcement was developed by the
Fair Mining Collaborative (FMC) group and covers every aspect
of mining operations, including stake claims through every
stage of the mining process, agreement compliance, benefits
from operating mines and post-operation reclamations.
Amy Crook, executive director of the FMC, said
that the policy was thoroughly researched and built on the work
of the BC First Nations Mining and Energy Council, and takes
the best of the BC government regulations and the best
practices of other jurisdictions in Canada and other
The policy and subsequent action taken by the
four First Nations groups follows an accident at Mount Polley
mine in August, where a failure at the tailings dams of
Imperial Metals’ gold and copper mine caused the
spillage of about 10m cubic metres wastewater, including 4.5m
cubic metres of metals-laden fine sand, into Polley Lake.
Patrick Harry, chief of Canoe and Dog Creek First
Nation said: "This is not about ending all mining (…) It
is about making sure the right projects are accepted and done
the right way and that their operation, maintenance and
adherence to conditions are monitored."
"We invite government and industry to work with
us on this, as we are offering a way forward that ends
confrontation and stagnation," he added.
First Nation proposal
According to the new policies, companies that are
planning exploration or exploitation projects will need to
provide the First Nation with written information about the
project, its socio-economic advantages, type of work, location
and duration, as well as technical information on the
operations and socio-environmental impacts, detailed within a
planned monitoring and reclamation programme.
The First Nation will evaluate the cumulative
impact of the mining activities in a specific area, including
ecological aspects, impact on habitat, environment, water
quality, social and municipal services, public health and
safety and cultural and spiritual aspects.
In the case of exploration agreements, the mining
company will have to provide the First Nation with sufficient
funding to participate in the negotiations, allowing for an
independent environmental social and economic assessment of the
project, and provide enough time for negotiations before
starting exploration activities.
In addition, the code obliges the applicants to
post sufficient security to cover all reclamation costs,
including those which may occur due to major incidents. The
First Nation seeks a professional certification of the
reclamation costs estimate from the company.
The new code also requires that a company which
wants to reopen a closed mine must submit a new Mines Act
permit application and a revised feasibility study and
reclamation plan. The approval will be only given upon the
re-application for all permits and the filing of a new
environmental assessment review.
The First Nation said that, in the case of a lack
of agreement with the proponent, it will retain all rights in
equity and common law, withdrawing any support for the project
and notifying the government of the failed negotiation.