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British Columbia puts restrictions on mineral claims, mining in two First Nations territories

The British Columbia (BC) government announced Thursday new interim measures will place restrictions on mineral claim registrations and mining activities in Gitxaała Nation and Ehattesaht First Nation territories, while the province works to modernize BC’s Mineral Tenure Act.

The province’s current Mineral Tenure Act (MTA) permits anyone with a free miner certificate to acquire mineral claims online through an automated system in First Nations’ territories, without their consultation or consent.

In October 2021, the Gitxaała Nation filed a legal challenge in Supreme Court seeking to overturn the province’s granting of multiple mineral claims from 2018 to 2020 on Banks Island, in their territory on BC’s northern coast.

The Gitxaała claimed they never consented to issuance of claims, were not consulted, and were never notified of the pending decisions. The lawsuit asked the province to invalidate existing claims and suspend staking in Gitxaala territory.

The court began hearing arguments in April 2023 and in September ruled that the province must consult with Indigenous groups before granting mineral claims, upholding the Crown’s duty.

The judge found that the Province owes a constitutional duty to consult with First Nations prior to registering mineral tenures under the MTA and that there are negative impacts to Gitxaała Nation’s and Ehattesaht First Nation’s territories and rights from registration of mineral claims and gave the Province 18 months to reform the MTA to incorporate the duty to consult.

Gitxaała and Ehattesaht had remaining concerns that the impacts on their rights found by the court would continue while MTA reform was underway and until a new regime was in place. The Nations filed appeals including requested orders to quash specific mineral claims and prevent new claim registrations until a consultation regime is in place. They have agreed not to proceed with those aspects of their appeals in light of protective measures enacted by the Province.

“This resolution demonstrates that meeting in person, government to government, allows us to develop solutions together, and I want to recognize and express my gratitude to Ehattesaht and Gitxaała for coming to the table with us to move forward the important work of reforming the Mineral Tenure Act,” Josie Osborne, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation said in Thursday’s news release.

“These interim measures mean that instead of ongoing litigation that could have far more significant and longer-term impacts to the sector, we are instead able to focus on our work together to reform the act,” she said.

The two Nations and the Ministry have also agreed to support amendments to the interim orders if Ehattesaht or Gitxaała reach agreement with companies seeking to explore or mine in their territories.

“Gitxaała is ready to work with the Province and other First Nations to ensure B.C. meets its commitment to establish a mineral tenure law that aligns with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and respects Gitxaała laws,” Gitxaała-elected Chief Councillor Linda Innes said.

“The orders enacted by the Province are an important step to begin this work together.”

Source: MINING.COM – Read More