Two notable deals in the West Canada It could reshape the role of indigenous peoples in resource development projects, placing greater power in the hands of long-excluded groups and signaling a potential shift in how industry and governments negotiate with communities on the front lines of environmental degradation.
In recent years, a series of Fierce battles on pipelines She highlighted the fractious nature of resource extraction projects, which often affect First Nations communities against powerful corporations.
But this week, the Yaquit Knuqi-It (YQT) community in southeastern British Columbia signed an unprecedented agreement with mining company NWP Coal Canada that would give Indigenous leadership veto power over the proposed project, leading to a reinstatement of the project. Formation of the authority of indigenous peoples over their lands.
Under the deal, YQT will become the “arranger and auditor” for the proposed C$400 million (US$300 million) Crown Mountain project.
“For too long, Indigenous peoples have not been brought to the negotiating table in making decisions that directly affect our rights and interests,” said President Heidi Gravel in a statement, adding that her community will finally have the change to organize entrepreneurship in their lands. .
said Dave Baines, director of project development at NWP, who cited dissatisfaction in communities who felt they were not adequately consulted or promises were broken.
The industry likes to do what has worked in the past rather than try new things. But sometimes you have to not do what was done before and make that change.”
With past projects around the country sometimes facing criticism for a lack of meaningful consultation, Baines said the decision was also beneficial from a commercial standpoint.
“We’re seeing projects get rejected because they don’t align the original people in the area. Is it more risky for us to formally accept them as a regulator and work with them to get to yes? Or is it more risky to do the same old thing and possibly face a lawsuit in the future? “
The proposed metallurgical coal mine will open in 2025 if approved by federal and local regulators.
The area is currently a coke-mining site with a poor environmental record: in March, a provincial court Teck Resources fined C$60 million After the Fording River and Greenhills operations contaminated local waterways with selenium. Other mines have been suggested But she faced stiff opposition.
In its statement, Gravelle said the company has committed to an “approval-based environmental assessment,” which means NWP will require YQT permission for the project to move forward, as well as overseeing the project through mine life expectancy and remediation efforts.
“Getting a permit for a project is like getting married: hard work doesn’t stand up to a minister, it’s the next 30 years we live in each other’s pockets,” Baines said. If we’re going to work with these countries… this is a journey together. It’s not a one-size-fits-all.”
In recent years, Aboriginal leadership in Western Canada has advocated for A Say Akbar in – or So full control Over-resource projects affecting their land.
The deal comes as Blueberry River First Nations, located 1,200km away, announced its own landmark agreement with the province of British Columbia. In landscapes scarred by the continued push for new industrial development, the agreement will see new protections for wildlife, a moratorium on logging of old forests, and new compensations for the community. Any new resource extraction projects would be limited in the amount of land they could disturb.
“For too long, First Nations have been set aside, not reached out to or heard from,” President Judy Dejarlais told reporters as she and the prime minister announced the deal. “Today marks a new direction. First Nations will be involved at all stages of development. Blueberry now has a say every step of the way.”
The provincial government has also agreed to set up a C$200 million restoration fund to support the “healing” of the land from years of industrial upheaval.
In 2021, the British Columbia Supreme Court sided with Blueberry River, finding that the province had violated the nation’s treaty rights by allowing fossil fuel development in the region that prevented the nation from living off the land.
More deals on revenue sharing and land rehabilitation between the provincial government and First Nations are expected in the coming days.