Nfld. & Labrador

Quebec Innu block N.L. mine site

Innu from a reserve near Schefferville, Que., are blocking access to a mine site in western Labrador, saying they won't leave until Newfoundland and Labrador accepts their land claim in the area.

Innu from a reserve near Schefferville, Que., are blocking access to a mine site in western Labrador, saying they won't leave until Newfoundland and Labrador accepts their land claim in the area.

Labrador Iron Mines Holdings has reached a compensation agreement with Newfoundland and Labrador's Innu Nation, but Innu people living closest to the site, on the Matimekush-Lac-John reserve in Quebec, say they haven't been dealt with fairly.

"Of course the Newfoundland government must be thinking we're going to give a little bit percentage to keep them happy, but that's not the way we see it," said Matimekush-Lac-John Innu leader Real McKenzie. "Innu got to be first — with the best agreement we can have."

The Innu began their blockade on June 11.

McKenzie said the Innu hope their protest will pressure the federal and provincial governments to accept a land claim settlement in Labrador that includes the Quebec Innu.

Even though the protest is preventing more than 20 people in his community from working at the mine site, McKenzie said the people from Matimekush-Lac-John are prepared to protest until they get what they want.

"They're going to stay there until we see the Newfoundland government engaging in serious land claim discussions," he said.

The provincial government has given Labrador Iron Mines environmental approval to reopen the mine site in western Labrador. The mine site was abandoned by the Iron Ore Company of Canada in 1982.

The company said earlier this year that it planned to produce 600,000 tonnes of ore this summer and create hundreds of jobs.

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