BC Mining Issue:BC law does not require finalized agreements to be made between Indigenous communities and mining companies before exploration activities begin.
Fair Mining Best Practice:Mining companies should be legally required to enter into access agreements with First Nations before engaging in mineral exploration.
All stages of mining activity within traditional territories have the potential to infringe upon Aboriginal rights and title. As neither the government nor mining companies are legally obliged to enter into agreements with First Nations, it is the government’s duty to address concerns and reconcile conflicting interests.
Unlike other parts of Canada, very few First Nations in BC have signed treaties with the provincial government. Only those First Nations in BC who have signed treaties, or the modern day ‘Final Agreements’ have ownership of all minerals and precious metals on their Treaty settlement lands.
All remaining First Nations’ traditional territory does not fall under these same ‘ownership’ rights and remains un-ceded land and thus subject to First Nations land claims.
A First Nation’s power therefore lies in the negotiation of three important agreements with mining companies and government:
- Access / Exploration Agreements
- Impact Benefit Agreements (IBAs or Resource Agreements);
- and Accommodation Agreements.
These agreements are important as they allow the affected First Nation to call for and secure ethical and beneficial resource development.
BC Law provides only 30 days for First Nations to review an often complex permit applications called the Notice of Work. Extending this time to allow First Nations time to carefully review the application is a key part of ensuring the rights of First Nations.
It is essential that a community enter into negotiations with clear resource plans, protocols and policies to best influence mining activities in order to serve a community’s values, interests and philosophy.
Successfully negotiating these agreements is a useful tool for maximizing the benefits and minimizing the adverse impacts of mineral development on traditional territories, for the benefit of all British Columbians.
This section explains negotiating agreements from a First Nations’ perspective.