Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation (BNFN) is signalling a pro-business outlook to industry groups and mineral prospectors as it continues to negotiate its land claim with the federal and provincial governments.
In a letter just before Christmas to mining claim holders regarding an area spanning roughly between Terrace Bay and Manitouwadge, and along Lake Superior’s coastline, BNFN Chief Duncan Michano says his community “is a progressive proponent of business and sustainable economic development in Northern Ontario.”
“Accordingly,” Michano said, “we want to try and minimize adverse impacts as much as possible.”
When the letter went out accompanied by a map outlining areas that would be off-limits to mineral development, some were concerned exploration could be curtailed.
“It’s a large area,” remarked Northwestern Ontario Prospectors Association executive-director Garry Clark.
Areas that have been “withdrawn” from claim-staking activity are referenced under orders made by Ontario’s Ministry of Energy and Northern Development and Mines. A broader map outlines an “area of caution” in what’s dubbed the Northern Lake Superior Region.
“Before you register a mining claim (in this area) or expend funds in connection with potential mineral exploration activities, you are encouraged to obtain independent legal advice regarding any possible effect this litigation may have on your potential rights under the Mining Act and your commercial interests,” warns a provincial notice that was dated Dec. 16.
The notice adds: “Any financial consequences will not be borne by the province.”
Clark said the potential legal ramifications could limit exploration to large mining companies who have the deep pockets to bear legal costs, and who may already have relationship with First Nations in the area.
Michano said “we believe that the benefits that flow from our (land) claim’s settlement will also be beneficial to all our neighbours.
“Biigtigong Nishnaabeg has a vision for our community in lands it wants set aside for settlement purposes, and we also have a vision for our traditional territory.”
Michano invited mining claim holders “to contact us at your convenience in order to establish a positive working relationship.”
The band has been trying to get its land claim settled for about 40 years.