Sudbury

Moose Cree First Nation withdraws legal obstacle for NioBay exploration

Moose Cree First Nation says it has withdrawn its application for a judicial review of mining company NioBay's drilling permit in the James Bay lowlands.

Company hopes to conduct test drilling on area approximately 45 km south of Moosonee

Moose Cree Chief Mervin Cheechoo says the First Nation has withdrawn its application for a judicial review of NioBay's exploration permit. (Erik White/CBC )

Moose Cree First Nation says it has withdrawn its application for a judicial review of mining company NioBay's drilling permit in the James Bay lowlands.

In January, NioBay had received a permit from Ontario's Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines to drill eight test holes near South Bluff Creek for deposits of niobium, which is used in electronics and to strengthen steel.

But in March, NioBay reported that MCFN and a member of the community had brought the application forward, seeking to set aside the company's exploration permit.

Chief Mervin Cheechoo and the Moose Cree Council said now they withdrew the application because NioBay had promised in writing not to build a mine without the support of Moose Cree First Nation.

Cheechoo added that they didn't want decisions taken out of their hands and made by a judge. 

"Court should be a last resort, not a first option," Cheechoo said.

"These are critical developments. The study is going to give us important information to help us understand the potential impacts of niobium mining on our Homeland and our rights," the statement reads.

"And NioBay's commitment to respect our decision-making processes and not proceed without our support will give the Membership the space it needs to make informed decisions. We look forward to having a good discussion with the Membership on November 18."

Moose Cree First Nation is taking steps to work with RioBay on exploration in the James Bay lowlands. (Erik White/CBC)

NioBay has also committed to a "protection agreement" to protect the community's rights and interests during any test drilling. 

The company said it will also accommodate any concerns raised by a recent environmental study.

The decision does not mean that a mine will be built, as NioBay's permit does not allow it to do any mining or even any construction.

Cheechoo says the drilling of the test holes could occur in early 2020 after NioBay negotiates a protection agreement with MCFN.

He says the environmental study and more information will be shared at a public meeting on Monday.

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