NR – First Nations Women to BC’s prospectors – time to join the new world, boys

NR – First Nations Women to BC’s prospectors – time to join the new world, boys

Williams Lake BC. Wed. March 9, 2016: BC’s Mineral explorers need to end their campaign to save an archaic mining regime that is now flatly rejected by First Nations and British Columbians, and accept the reality of the 21st Century, say a First Nations women’s group involved in mining reform.

The Association for Mineral Exploration in BC (AMEBC) has spent most of 2016 submitting op- eds to papers calling for more lands to be opened up for mining. This week it used the massive PDAC mining conference in Toronto to try to drum up support for its campaign against change.

“Sadly, it refuses to recognize the days when miners received priority over all other land-users and -holders in BC are truly numbered,” said Bev Sellars, chair of BC’s First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining (FNWARM).

“How many court victories on First Nations rights – in which BC cases have been prominent – will it take for the Association for Mineral Exploration in BC (AMEBC) to realize this is a new world now,” said Ms. Sellars. “How many polls will it take showing no social license among the public for mine-and-be-dammed laws and regulations that date back to colonialization.”

FNWARM was created more than six years ago in BC – where there is a strong matriarchal leadership among the province’s more than 200 First Nations. It brought together women chiefs, councilors and mining coordinators whose communities were struggling against bad mining projects and the massive claims staking on their territories.

“Since then we have seen other governments and even mining companies start to move towards change – pushed by court victories, led by the Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court of Canada ruling, and pressure from the general public.

“There is still a long way to go, but real change is inevitable, and it is disappointing to see AMEBC trying to live in the past,” said Ms. Sellars.

FMWARM agrees that mining has a role and place in BC, but that so do others values and activities. A balanced and respectful approach to land use is needed, not one that gives one industry unfair privilege.

It offers AMEBC the following five-point “cheat sheet” to remind it the modern reality:

  1. The Tsilhqot’in and other court victories means the mining sector can no longer ignore First Nations – if it wants to do business it must work with them and seek consent;
  2. Society recognizes that mining is not necessarily the highest and best use of land and that community watersheds, valuable species habitat, tourism and pure water – “blue gold” – is more precious than gold and other metals.;
  3. The public is no longer confident that the BC government is regulating the mining industry in a way that protects public interests. The Mt. Polley disaster revealed huge flaws and the public now knows there are already 98 tailings dams throughout BC watersheds and government experts predict two major tailings accidents each decade going forward. The industry cannot be surprised that the public wants some areas off-limits to mining.;
  4. The current free-entry staking system for mineral exploration is a relic of the 19th century gold-rush mentality and gives unfair rights to one sector over everyone else. If the industry wants to build trust they should agree to reform of these mineral tenure laws to bring them into the 21st century. Other jurisdictions, like Ontario, have modified their laws to make them more accountable to the public and responsive to Aboriginal rights;
  5. Reduced conflict and increased certainty also requires better land use planning that respects others rights, provides cultural and ecological protection zones, and recognises the value of alternative economic values.

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