FNWARM seeks to promote environmentally sound mining exploration and development processes that respect First Nations rights and full participation. FNWARM is not against mining development of any kind, but it is against mining development at any price. Destroyed lakes, polluted lands and rivers, and the destruction of important fish and wildlife ecosystems are too high a price to pay for short-term, limited economic gains. The coalition believes it should be possible to find environmentally committed companies that genuinely want to build genuine partnerships with First Nations to seek environmentally and socially sustainable developments that respect the cultures, traditions and needs of their First Nation partners.
THE CURRENT REALITY: The mining industry has the financial and human resources to fight for what it wants, and the political lobbying resources to wage its campaigns. Yet as of 2010 there had not been a major new metals mine open in BC since the mid 1990s,
The courts in recent years have consistently ruled in favour of First Nations and have imposed on governments the duty to consult in a meaningful way with First Nations. No treaties were ever signed and no lands or resources were ever ceded when settlers first came to BC, and for almost 150 years colonialist attitudes have seen governments and companies act as if they could do as they wished on First Nations traditional lands. Those days are now over. We are in changing times that will eventually lead to the establishment of First Nation title and rights over their lands.
Even if governments and companies were able to do end runs around First Nations to push though a project, they would still have to contend with the courts because of their defiance of the duty to consult and accommodate. They would still have to contend with the First Nations should they still try to proceed with a mine. This is the case, for example, with the Thompson Creek (formerly Terrane Metals) Mt. Milligan (Shus Nadloh) open pit mine, which is mires in legal challenges from the Nak’azdli First Nation.
The investors in such companies have no assurance that their projects would not be closed or otherwise financially impacted once the affected First Nations resolve their title and rights to their lands. In fact, they can be assured that their investments would be affected.
THE PROBLEM: Many companies still believe they can get around the law and First Nations rights. They spend their time and resources trying to divide communities, or to limit their involvement in the process. They spend fortunes on PR campaigns that portray themselves as the great saviours of the economy and encourage the public to view First Nations are unreasonable obstacles to wealth and prosperity.
They also continue to undermine faith in their commitment to the environment with: Proposals to kill lakes and to recklessly mine on major rivers and watersheds;Environmental reports that are paid for by interests vested in getting right on the resource in the ground, not protecting the environment and ecosystems that surround it;Efforts to exclude meaningful first Nations consultation and involvement, and evidence and studies that do not ignore or diminish the significance of the environmental impact;A history of being proven wrong about the impact of their projects on the environment and of failing to clean up played-out and abandoned mines that continue to pollute our lands
Our Fact Sheet “Dirty Mines and Dirty Tricks” discusses why the mining industry is in general not trusted and what it needs to do to earn trust.
THE FUTURE: Some more enlightened mining companies have realized that working with First Nations is not only the key to complying with the courts and getting approval for a project, but is also the key to future certainly for their projects and investors.
These companies also realise that the times are changing and that their future depends on changing the way they do business. They realise it makes more sense to take the time, effort and money that others use in an effort to cling to the old ways, and to instead spend these resources to fully include First Nations. They realise that the future depends on building trust and genuine partnerships.
This means working with First Nations to fully assess together the environmental impact and possible mitigations. It means working with First Nations to fully understand their communities, their dependence on the land and waters and the ecosystems, and to address their concerns. It means ensuring that if projects do go ahead First Nations receive a fair share of the revenues and get well paying jobs – not just low paying low-level work.
In some cases, it might mean finding alternative mining opportunities if the initial proposal is not environmentally sustainable. Trying to make a low-grade and otherwise financially unviable mine economically profitable by taking shortcuts and destroying the environment is short-sighted. It will create problems down the road for any new mining opportunities that might later be identified.