The Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG), along with ?Esdilagh First Nation (Alexandria), have chosen not to sign an Economic Community Development Agreement (ECDA) with the province of British Columbia for the Gibraltar Mine, states a press release from the TNG Aug. 19.
Gibraltar Mine is located less than one kilometre from ?Esdilagh (Alexandria) reserve which is one of six First Nation communities making up the Tsilhqot’in Nation, the report states.
TNG calls on the province to immediately engage at the highest levels in good faith to re-think the current template mine agreements that the province presents as “take it or leave it” deals to First Nations.
“In light of the recent Mount Polley Mine disaster and the announcement of an independent review of the province’s tailings ponds, we call on the province to engage us to participate in the review of the Gibraltar Mine,” ?Esdilah Chief Bernie Mack said in the statement.
He said that having a meaningful review of these implications is an important step to re-starting an ECDA negotiation.
“In a post Title environment, the province and Canada need to increase environmental diligence — and this can be done through a mining reform which we as a Nation have been calling on for years. Economic reform, recognizing First Nations beneficial interests to land development, must also occur,” Mack said.
The statement calls for the province to fundamentally change its approach to engagement and benefit-sharing with First Nations on major projects.
In the wake of the Tsilhqot’in title decision and the recent Mount Polley Mine disaster, the provincial status quo for revenue sharing agreements with First Nations is not acceptable, the statement says.
“This comes down to respect,” said TNG Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse. “Negotiating with take-it-or-leave-it offers is inconsistent with the direction from the Supreme Court in our title ruling, and offering an agreement without telling us the funding levels is a slap in the face. First Nations deal with crippling levels of poverty on our reserves. We are not critical at all of other First Nations that have signed ECDAs — we understand the urgent need for economic benefits, even on the insulting terms set down by the province. But the status quo has been shattered.
“We are not asking for handouts, we are calling for real partnerships. We are calling on the province to sit down with us and work out a new, positive approach to engagement, environmental protection, security levels and benefit-sharing for the Gibraltar Mine.” Gibraltar representatives were not available for comment at press time Thursday.