Voisey's Bay royalties 'wasted' in past: Innu chief

The chief of Natuashish says he is pleased royalties from Voisey's Bay are bypassing his band's bank account.

The newly elected chief of an Innu community in Labrador said he is pleased royalties from the Voisey's Bay nickel mine are bypassing his band's bank account.

Prote Poker, who was elected chief in May, had campaigned to have revenues from the nearby Voisey's Bay mine sent instead to a trust fund, rather than placed in the band's direct control.

Over the past four years, the band had received $4 million in mining revenues.

Even so, Poker said the band's finances are in a mess.

"We're having some problems, financial problems now. There's a lot of bills outstanding that [have] to be resolved," Poker told CBC News.

Among the problems is an airline account that is $400,000 in arrears.

A series of audits found serious irregularities in the band's finances, including poor financial controls.

Several band members had filed a lawsuit against the Innu Nation and Voisey's Bay Nickel for an arrangement that saw royalties paid directly to the band. That lawsuit was quietly dropped this spring, when the trust fund was established.

Poker said that even though his band could desperately use new revenue, he said he is happy that mining royalties will be held in trust for future generations.

"With all the spending that we had here, a lot of it was wasted," Poker said.

"We could have done good with that money, if it had been properly spent."

Poker said auditors are now looking at questionable payments to community members through royalties paid to the band last year.

Meanwhile, Poker said the band council will ask the trustees of the fund to consider paying for a community youth centre.