Mining News

Shift in British Columbia towards partnerships with First Nations

Posted by Alana Wilson on 5/12/2014 4:00:54 PM

By Alana Wilson

British Columbia’s First Nations are shifting away from confrontation and towards partnership agreements with government on resource development, reports Tamsyn Burgman in the National Post. Instead of blocking resource development, a number of First Nations including those covered by the Nkala’pamux Nation Tribal Council are now working with the province and have signed an agreement that will allow them to participate in decision-making within their territory.

The agreement underscores a shift in how First Nations, the provincial government and industry in B.C. are approaching resource and revenue sharing in recognition of the difficult and slow-moving treaty process.

First Nations people are moving away from the militant tactics of yesteryear to gain a voice when they have an issue, said Grand Chief Robert Pasco, who represents the council.

John Rustad, minister of aboriginal relations, notes in the article that more than 200 businesses agreements have been negotiated between the province and First Nations since 2005-2006. These agreements not only give First Nations the chance to shape business decisions but also to improve economic stability in their communities.

Mining companies are also working more closely with First Nations. The article cites Peter Martell of Teck Resources as saying:

“I know the philosophy in the mining industry is changing, and I think, (the) same thing with the province, where they’re seeing it’s important to involve First Nations,” Martell said. “Everybody definitely agrees things need to change.”

The evolving relationship between First Nations and government may already be benefiting B.C.’s mining industry. A study conducted last year on barriers to mining investment in the province found uncertainty concerning disputed land claims to be biggest barrier for investment with the highest percentage of ratings of ‘strongly deterred’ or ‘would not pursue investment as a result’ of the factors assessed in the Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies.

In recent years however, less respondents to the Survey of Mining Companies have rated uncertainty concerning disputed land claims as a strong deterrent or that they would not pursue investment as a result. The most negative ratings have fallen for each of the last four years, contributing to improved ratings for British Columbia on the Policy Perception Index over the last five years.

BC Uncertainty Land Claims

Despite this improvement, British Columbia can go much further towards improving its policy environment for mining companies. B.C. ranked 5th of 112 global jurisdictions in terms of pure mineral potential (the highest rank in Canada), yet the province ranked only 32nd globally in terms of its Policy Perception Index, lagging behind nine provinces and territories. Engaging First Nations in resource development decisions and partnerships could help the province achieve its economic potential and ensure that all British Columbians benefit from the province’s mineral wealth.

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