WL Indian Band signs mining agreement

The Williams Lake Indian Band and Spanish Mountain Gold Ltd. have signed a protocol agreement.

The Williams Lake Indian Band and Spanish Mountain Gold Ltd. have signed a protocol agreement.

SMG is currently exploring a gold project near Likely — located within the Williams Lake Indian Band’s traditional territory — that could yield four million ounces of gold.

The agreement, says the proponents, is one of several anticipated to be signed between the two parties as the project proceeds.

It represents the company’s commitment to consult First Nations on issues such as environmental design, says Kirk Dressler, economic development officer and communications co-ordinator with the Williams Lake Indian Band.

“They’ve committed to meaningfully address the issues that we raise,” he says. “The agreement says in the feasibility stage and in preliminary environmental design we provide feedback, and if we need an independent party to review it then they provide us with the resources to do that. As we get more details as the mine proceeds then additional work and resources would be required and a more detailed impact/benefit agreement would cover that off.”

The company is seeking to strike a similar agreement with the Soda Creek Indian Band, which also has traditional interest in that area.

Colin Clancy, corporate communications officer with SMG, says some provincial permitting on the mine still needs to be obtained. The company has recently completed a preliminary economic analysis; a pre-feasability study and a bankable feasibility study will follow.

It is estimated that process could take at least a year. If and when the mine is operational it could employ 260 people; the mine’s lifespan is thought to be 10-15 years to remove the most accessible two million ounces of gold. If it is economically feasible to remove the additional two million, that could push the mine’s operational period beyond that time.

In the future, Dressler expects there will be numerous agreements signed between the Williams Lake Indian Band and SMG that will govern their relationship throughout the mine’s life and could provide for job opportunities, contracts, capacity building and training for First Nations.

In a press release Williams Lake Indian Band chief Ann Louie said: “Our agreement demonstrates that First Nations and private industry can work together positively and co-operatively and seek to find a mutually beneficial common ground. First Nations are as interested as everyone else in seeing our region survive and thrive economically.”

Revenue sharing with the company and the provincial government is also an expectation on this project, says Dressler.

The provincial government recently re-affirmed its commitment to revenue sharing on mining projects with First Nations. According to the provincial government press release, the amount of revenue shared with First Nations is negotiated on a project-by-project basis based on factors such as the size of the proposed project, the nature and interests of a First Nation.  Also, the mineral tax that a mine pays rises and falls, and as that occurs the benefits received by a First Nations community changes correspondingly.

“In our opinion both parties — the government and the private proponent — have an obligation to First Nations,” Dressler says of cost sharing. “We haven’t yet dealt with those things.

“When we move to the next stage in mine development we will cover those off.”

He says there are several other mining projects within the Williams Lake Indian Band traditional territory that are in the preliminary discussion stage; the SMG project is the most advanced.