THE NISGA’A Nation wants the provincial government to hold off on any decision to approve a molybdenum mine, saying it doesn’t want the upcoming provincial election to get in the way.
At issue is the approval sought by Avanti Mining to spend more than $900 million on a molybdenum mine to be located near Kitsault on Alice Arm along the north coast.
The location is within Nisga’a traditional territory and subject to provisions of the Nisga’a land claims treaty.
“We fear that the current political environment could be driving a premature decision by provincial ministers to approve this mine before all the facts are in,” said Nisga’a Lisims Government president Mitchell Stevens in a statement released last night.
A completed assessment of the project, which calls for an open pit operation spanning 16 years, was sent to the provincial mines and environment ministers March 1 and they have 45 days as of that date to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or ask for more work to be done.
But Stevens said the assessment failed to fully address “the potential impacts of the mine on the environment, the health of Nisga’a people, and the social and economic effects on the Nisga’a Nation.”
In particular, Stevens said the impacts of discharging heavy metals into fresh water and marine environments have yet to be fully considered.
“Moreover, the project effects will include a loss of approximately 50 per cent of the aquatic life and habitat in a significant local watershed downstream of the mine site. This could have potential but as yet unknown corresponding effects in Alice Arm,” Stevens continued.
He said the Nisga’a use Alice Arm as a food source.
Stevens also questioned the completed assessment’s position that the mine may have a modest improvement in the economic well-being of Nisga’a citizens.
“We look forward to participating in the many opportunities for economic growth. However, the Nisga’a Nation will not allow the health and welfare of Nisga’a people to be put at risk for this project,” said Stevens.
The Nisga’a are stating their position through the dispute resolution portion of the land claims treaty they have with the federal and provincial governments.
It begins with informal discussions to resolve problems and can include mediation or arbitration and ultimately court action.
Avanti has so far spent $70 million on its project, including $15 million in environmental studies.
It’s planning for a two-year construction phase employing 700 people with 300 people needed during the mine’s operating life. Molybdenum is used as a strengthening agent in steel.