In a unanimous decision, Ontario’s Mining Board voted to approve permits for three mining proposals. Mining companies say this decision is a significant win for the mining industry in the province. Opponents say the panel’s decision was made under false pretences and with deceitful editing.
“It’s stupid,” James Snukal, Chief of the Algonquin First Nation Gros Cap First Nation, told local media in November 2017, a month after the public hearings into the mining applications were held. “It’s not mining, it’s . . . trickery and bad faith.”
According to his argument, his community was never consulted on the applications – and for good reason. The mining board essentially pulled an argument that’s been used by fossil fuel industry to delegitimize local resistance: altering an Environmental Assessment Certificate.
“Telling indigenous people that a document they’ve never seen is the same document as what they themselves signed, is the equivalent of burning the poster by us as your friends,” said Diane Wharton, a researcher with Greenpeace Canada.
In December 2017, the Gros Cap First Nation filed a $1 million lawsuit against the Ontario Mining Board. A notice of lawsuit was presented on 5 March for the mining industry’s use of the gree e pan map. The map, which is drawn for the company at the request of the Government of Ontario, is widely acknowledged as inaccurate and unable to be used for any purposes other than mining, according to Gros Cap First Nation Chief, James Snukal. “It’s not a map, it’s a fiction map,” he said in an interview with the CBC.
An updated map to the west of the Government of Ontario’s own mine-wells where Joseph Onekan allegedly mined the Spring Phoenix Deposit in 2014 and his own work that allegedly featured upon the mill pit in 2014, according to James Snukal’s argument. A map this far in the past using the application application information from 2017 and with “a blank shift X” at the bottom of the north end, according to James Snukal.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” James Snukal added.
According to the Mining Board’s final decision, the mining companies can proceed with their applications. The Gros Cap First Nation’s lawsuit is still before the courts. It isn’t clear at this point what exactly the government is arguing, if anything, that justifies the permit applications. However, something certainly seems out of whack: a proposal for the three approvals, the Cumberland Weir Plan, Cumberland Mine Lease, and the Grange Copper Mine received almost unanimous approval at the Mining Board.
While some mining companies maintain the project is safe for human health and the environment, opponents such as the Gros Cap First Nation insist the mine would be unsafe. The people are adamant: “Signs are everywhere,” explained James Snukal, explaining that specific steps of the mine are located near to their own homes.
Much is at stake: this is the eastern portion of the province, and for decades Algonquin First Nations have been occupied by mining companies without permission.
“The [Ontario] Mining Board is supposed to be the guardian of the environment,” said Diane Wharton, using an industry analogy. “But they clearly showed they were not guardians of the environment.”