A cheque for $4,500 is not what the Williams Lake Indian Band expected for its share of a year’s mineral tax revenue from Mount Polley Mine near Williams Lake.
When the band signed an Economic and Community Development Agreement (ECDA) with the government in 2013, the minister of aboriginal relations and reconciliation at the time said the agreement would help the band build a better future for its community.
“These agreements underscore our government’s commitment to helping First Nations meaningfully participate in, and benefit from, resource activity happening within their traditional territory,” then minister Ida Chong said at the agreement signing.
The cheque won’t cover one person’s tuition let alone build a better future, Chief Ann Louie said.
“We were anticipating $400,000,” she explained. “Now we’ve learned we are only entitled to mineral taxes on the expansion of the mine. One person working at the mine pays more than that in taxes.”
Minister of Aboriginal Relations John Rustad’s office said ECDAs underscore the government’s commitment to First Nations and represent one of the many innovative ways in which our government is working in partnership with First Nations — partnerships defined by collaboration, co-operation and respect.
Louie, however, said the band has worked hard to be fair, and if the $4,500 is any indication of revenue the band can expect in the future for development of resources on its traditional territories, First Nations won’t be eager to sign agreements.
“People jump on the band wagon and say we get everything for free and it’s just not true,” Louie added. “To offer up such a minuscule amount and suggest it represents a legitimate sharing is offensive in the extreme and simply provoking First Nations to take action.”
The ministry, however, said the agreement is that WLIB receives 18.5 per cent of the incremental mineral tax revenue from the Mount Polley mine expansion and $4,500 equals 2.23 per cent and relates to how much of total production was attributable to the expansion (new revenue) in 2013/14.
“So this number will grow as the expansion is developed,” the ministry said, adding mineral tax revenue is subject to a number of outside factors such as market conditions and commodities prices volatility, production costs and exchange rates.
“Depressed commodity prices in 2013 coupled with low incremental ore production from the Mount Polley expansion have contributed to this 2013/14 project payment.”
Project payment amounts could increase in future production years depending on commodities prices and production levels.
When asked how much revenue the government is receiving in mineral tax from mines in the Cariboo, the ministry said confidentiality provisions under the Mineral Tax Act preclude the disclosure of tax information.
Louie is calling on government to revisit the agreement program describing the present situation as unacceptable.