NW Ont. mining dispute could get ugly, aboriginal leader warns


NW Ont. mining dispute could get ugly, aboriginal leader warns


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THUNDER BAY, Ont. _ An aboriginal leader says the ongoing dispute between a remote northwestern Ontario First Nation and a Toronto-area exploration company could get ugly if the province doesn't set the stage for some kind of mediation process.


Nishnawbe-Aski Nation Grand Chief Stan Beardy warns the dispute is heading toward “a major confrontation in the bush.''


Beardy made the remark Thursday after attending a “solidarity'' ceremony with other chiefs at Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation at Big Trout Lake about 500 kilometres north of Thunder Bay.


Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug and junior exploration company Platinex are battling each other in the courts over Platinex's plan to explore a potentially large platinum deposit about 40 kilometres from the reserve.


Beardy says that even if Platinex has the legal authority to set up a drilling operation at the location, there will be a protest to prevent it unless a mutual compensation agreement is reached beforehand.


Beardy said his people would offer significant resistance if provincial police attempt to enforce a Platinex-held permit to drill in the area without band consent.


“Caledonia is the size of a football field, but NAN territory is two-thirds of all of northern Ontario,'' said Beardy in a reference to the lengthy protest over a housing subdivision southwest of Toronto.


Jane Almeida, a spokeswoman for Premier Dalton McGuinty's office, would only say the province is aware of Beardy's request for mediation.


“We did receive (Beardy's) letter and it's under review,'' Almeida said.


Platinex lawyer Neal Smitheman said the area in question belongs to the Crown.


The company's offer of 500,000 shares in the company is generous for a small junior exploration outfit, he added.


“If they want a piece of the action, then this is more than fair,'' said Smitheman.


(Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal)