KI’s battle over mining exploration heads south


Friday March 2, 2012

Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation (KI) is taking the fight to stop exploration on its traditional lands to Toronto.

KI plans to hold a major rally in Ontario’s capital on Mar. 6 following a talk by the community’s leaders on Mar.5.

“We’re going to let the public know that this is still an issue, even though we’re way up here in the North,” KI Chief Morris said before heading to Toronto. “And to see this overwhelming support that we have.”

The rally takes place as thousands of mining company executives and government leaders from around the world gather in Toronto for the annual Prospectors and Developers Association Conference.

KI’s push into Toronto comes after Morris released a Youtube video in February announcing his First Nation’s plan to mobilize against God’s Lake Resources, a gold mining company with a stake in KI’s traditional territory.

“I’m not getting anything positive from (Minister) Bartolucci in regards to God’s Lake Resources’ activity at Sherman Lake,” Morris said in the video. “I am in the process of trying to mobilize to make my presence known. It’s happening again – another company is intruding when we’re in the land claims process with the provincial government.”

The conflict between KI and God’s Lake Resources first flared in October 2011, after community members came upon a mining exploration camp at Sherman Lake that KI was unaware of.

The First Nation issued an evacuation order to the company, and followed it up with calls for the provincial government to establish an independent panel to look into the issue.

Morris said that the company plans to go back to the site in early March, despite his First Nation’s opposition to the move.

KI is planning to mobilize at the site in the near future, although Morris said KI’s issues are with the government rather than the company.

“Until the government backs away to let us decide what happens on our land, they have to pull the (exploration) permit away,” Morris said.

The situation is similar to the 2007 case of the KI 6, in which six band members including Morris were jailed for opposing uranium mining on its traditional lands. In that case a lengthy court battle and appeal ended with the KI 6 victorious, and the Ontario government owing millions to the company.

Morris said the efforts to stop God’s Lake Resources are heading down the same path.

“If we follow the same path, the Ontario taxpayers are going to be on the hook for millions of dollars in payments again,” Morris said.

Meanwhile land claim negotiations between KI and the provincial government have been suspended by the First Nation while the God’s Lake issue remains unresolved.