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Indigenous consultations, protecting environment key to new N.W.T. mining act, says public

The territorial government has begun the process of creating its first made-in-the-N.W.T. mining act. On Monday the first of many public engagement sessions was held in Yellowknife.

GNWT held 1st of many public engagement sessions on new Mineral Resources Act in Yellowknife

The territorial government held the first of many public engagement sessions in Yellowknife on Monday to discuss the new Mineral Resources Act. (Submitted by Dept. of Industry, Tourism and Investment)

The territorial government has begun the process of creating its first made-in-the-N.W.T. mining act. On Monday it held the first of many public engagement sessions in Yellowknife.

"This Mineral Resources Act will be made together," said Pamela Strand, assistant deputy minister with the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

It's the first time Northerners are getting a say in how mining will be conducted in the territory. The sessions will be a collaborative process, seeking input from residents and Indigenous governments so that the territory can create its own mining future post-devolution.

The process is guided by four themes: access to land, maximizing benefits, responsibly managing industry and working together.

At the meeting Monday, many Yellowknifers told the CBC that meaningful Indigenous consultation and environmental protection should be among the most important aspects of the new legislation.

"There has to be better consultation with the people that live on the land.  All you got to do is ask. How simple is that?" said James Jenka, a Yellowknife resident from Fort Chipewyan, Alta.

"I think we've done enough of walking all over their area," echoed Nancy Vail.

"There are a number of people that would like to see more mining activity but after the experiences with Giant Mine and cost clean-up, the public has lots of big questions."

Another resident lamented the impact mining has on the dwindling caribou population.

"I miss those caribou herds," said Colin Evaglok. "Whatever garbage came from the mine, caribou had to drink that water.

"I'm almost ready to cry."

The government hopes to make the territory a destination for responsible resource development. While the Mineral Resources Act will replace the N.W.T. Mining Regulations, it will not be a comprehensive piece of legislation — it will not affect ongoing land claim negotiations, the authority of regional land and water boards, or alter laws and agreements that are already in place governing mining activity.

Public engagement sessions will continue across the territory through September.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said that public engagement sessions would continue through December. In fact, they should be wrapped up by September.
    Aug 30, 2017 11:24 AM CT

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