Niska 1 Ferry ServiceNovember 4, 2019
Regular Membership MeetingNovember 6, 2019
November 4, 2019
Moose Factory, ON – As directed by Membership Motion 2018-02-019 passed at the Membership Meeting on February 7, 2018, the Chief & Council of Moose Cree First Nation (MCFN) have had an environmental study conducted with respect to the NioBay mineral exploration project. A special community meeting will be held for the Membership on November 18, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. at Thomas Cheechoo Jr. Memorial Community Centre to share and discuss the results of this environmental study and to discuss next steps in MCFN’s engagement with the company.
Chief & Council are also pleased to advise that they have requested and received from NioBay a written commitment that it “will not proceed without the support of the Moose Cree First Nation community” to build any mine on the Moose Cree Homeland. A copy of NioBay’s letter making this commitment is attached
NioBay has also made two further commitments to Chief & Council. First, it will negotiate a “protection agreement” to protect MCFN’s rights and interests during any test drilling on the Moose Cree Homeland. Second, it will work with Chief & Council to accommodate any concerns raised by the environmental study before it does any test drilling.
“These are critical developments,” said Chief Mervin Cheechoo. “The study is going to give us important information to help us understand the potential impacts of niobium mining on our Homeland and our rights. And NioBay’s commitment to respect our decision-making processes and not proceed without our support will give the Membership the space it needs to make informed decisions. We look forward to having a good discussion with the Membership on November 18.”
NioBay received a permit in January 2019 to drill eight (8) test holes in the MCFN Homeland near South Bluff Creek. They want to test for deposits of the mineral “niobium,” which is used in electronics and to strengthen steel. Their interest is still at an early exploration stage. NioBay itself will not know if a mine could be economically viable until after its testing is complete. More extensive drilling was previously done in the same area in 1968 and 1969.
MCFN, along with Hilda Jefferies and the Sailors family, initially filed for a judicial review of NioBay’s drilling permit. “This month, we withdrew that court application,” explained Chief Cheechoo. “We do not want important decisions about development on our Homeland taken out of our hands and made by a judge. We strongly believe that our community should make those decisions itself and we want to protect the community’s right to choose. Court should be a last resort, not our first option.”
The decision of both MCFN and Hilda Jefferies and the Sailors family not to go to court at the exploration stage does not mean that a mine will be built. NioBay’s permit does not allow it to do any mining or even any construction.
The only activity that may proceed is the drilling of eight specific test holes. This could occur in early 2020 after NioBay negotiates a protection agreement with MCFN.
“At this early stage, we have nothing to lose by engaging with NioBay and much to gain,” said Chief Cheechoo. “Negotiating a protection agreement now protects our right to go to court later —and with better evidence— if we still oppose the project in the future. But with commitments like the ones that NioBay has already made, we should not have to.”
“Right now, we need two things,” Chief Cheechoo continued. “First, we need the best available information to make informed decisions for both now and the future about development on our Homeland. Second, we need NioBay and the Crown to respect our right to choose, our decision-making processes, and our ultimate decisions. A court cannot give us those things, but engagement with NioBay can. We can negotiate binding agreements to protect our rights and ensure that any future development only occurs if it is in the best interests of our community and our Homeland. That way we can also guarantee that MCFN directly benefits and has a strong role to play if any mining ultimately occurs.”
For inquires please contact:
Jeff Hunter, Executive Services Coordinator, MCFN