North

Tlicho sign deal with mine company

The Tlicho government has signed a cooperation agreement with Ontario-based Fortune minerals.

The Tlicho government has signed a cooperation agreement with Ontario-based Fortune Minerals.

The company wants to establish the NICO project, which is a gold, cobalt, bismuth and copper mine 50 kilometres north of the Tlicho community of Whati and about 160 kilometres northwest of Yellowknife.

In the agreement, the company will pay for a traditional knowledge study. It will also set up a committee to look at the NICO mine project’s environmental impacts.

The massive project has some obstacles ahead, such as making a road to the mine in order to extract the ore.

The site of the proposed NICO mine by Fortune Minerals, near Whati, N.W.T. (CBC)

The Mackenzie Valley Environmental Review Board allowed the proposed mine’s environmental assessment to include the proposed road.

But the Tlicho Government says that shouldn't be a part of the assessment because it was disrespectful to the Tlicho's moratorium on development. The Tlicho says the moratorium should continue until they have a land-use plan.

Tlicho Grand Chief Eddie Erasmus won't comment on the road until he knows what impact it could have on the lives of the Tlicho people.

Some in Whati are openly opposed to it because they say it could bring more alcohol and drugs into the community.

Tlicho Grand Chief Eddie Erasmus says he won't comment on the road to the proposed mine until he knows what impact it could have on the Tlicho people. (CBC)

The Tlicho took the board to court to try to stop it, but lost.  The Tlicho government is now appealing that ruling.

Even if the road gets the go-ahead, there’s debate is over who will pay for it.

Fortune Minerals says it's talking to the Government of the Northwest Territories about that. But the GNWT says it has no plans to pay for it unless invited in by the Tlicho government.

Fortune Minerals says the proposed mine has more than one million tonnes of gold and the world’s largest deposit of bismuth. It says that could bring in $128 million a year into the territory’s economy. If the mine does go ahead, Fortune Minerals hopes production will start in 2014.