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Resolution band seeks benefits from mining

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services

Fort Resolution (Apr 17/06) - Fort Resolution's First Nation wants benefits from diamond mining on its traditional lands and is ready to go to court if it has to.

The band has been trying for years to get impact benefit agreements without any success.

"Sometimes that's the only language that government understands," says Deninu Ku'e Chief Robert Sayine.

"We're getting really serious about this. We've been waiting too long."

The band's legal counsel has written the federal and territorial governments and diamond mining companies on the issue.

While the mining companies have reached impact benefit agreements with other Akaitcho First Nations in Ndilo, Dettah and Lutsel K'e, neither the companies nor the government have negotiated such agreements with the Deninu Ku'e.

"These lands have always belonged to the Akaitcho people. We have never surrendered any interest in them to the Crown," Sayine says. "The Treaty of 1900 affirmed our First Nation's rights and title.

The letter states that permits issued in breach of the Crown's legal obligation to consult and accommodate may be challenged in court.

The Akaitcho territory encompasses all of the diamond mining activity in the NWT. That includes the BHP Ekati diamond mine, the Diavik operation, the DeBeers mine at Snap Lake and a potential DeBeers project at Gahcho Kue.

As well, the March 22 letter states the current and proposed diamond mining activities within the Deninu Ku'e/Akaitcho traditional territory have been permitted in contravention of constitutionally protected rights.

It requests both levels of government refrain from making any decision permitting land dispositions or resource use until proper consultation and accommodation has occurred.

"What we are looking for is a share and a say from the mineral wealth generated within our territory," says First Nation negotiator Paul Boucher.