Air and water were the focuses of an environmental hearing on the NICO project Wednesday in Yellowknife, but some aboriginal leaders said the mining company and federal government are ignoring their right to a say in what happens.

Fortune Minerals wants to build the gold, cobalt, copper and bismuth mine on Tlicho lands about 160 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife.

The Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board is holding hearings in Whati, Yellowknife and Behchoko.

Environmentalists, aboriginal groups, and regulators gathered in the Tree of Peace meeting room in Yellowknife for the day-long hearing. The discussion was largely technical, but when it comes to land in the Northwest Territories, politics is always an issue.

The focus on air and water issues upset North Slave Metis Alliance president Bill Enge. He took exception to his people being ignored in one part of the hearing.

"I think it would be only right and proper (for the federal government).... to respect that this is part of the North Slave Metis traditional lands, and to put that up on their power point presentation the next time they come here," Enge said.

The Metis add Fortune Minerals should be negotiating with them.

The Tlicho government expects the same. Its senior community director Henry Zoe, said his people still harvest and travel in the area.

"Marion River watershed including Burke Lake is intrinsically valuable to the Tlicho people who continue to use the (region) for cultural purposes," he said.

The hearings continue Thursday and Friday in Behchoko.