Ministers approve Prairie Creek Mine road

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Prairie Creek Mine’s proposed all-season road got its final OK from federal and territorial ministers on Oct. 9, leaving few regulatory hurdles between the mine and production.

While the ministers responsible for the decision delayed it in January after the Naha Dehe Dene Band, Liidlii Kue First Nation and Dehcho First Nations made known several concerns about consultation, hammering down benefits and opportunities and incorporating traditional knowledge.

“The responsible ministers and I,” wrote Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett in the decision letter, “believe that all issues raised relating to potential adverse impacts from the proposed project on asserted or established Indigenous and/or treaty rights have been meaningfully and completely consulted on.”

Naha Dehe Chief Peter Marcellais and Liidlii Kue Chief Gerry Antoine both wrote letters to Bennett in June in support of the project, detailing work that had been done between them and Canadian Zinc Corp., which restructured and changed its name to NorZinc Ltd. in September.

Prairie Creek Mine has few regulatory hurdles left to tackle. Photo courtesy of Canadian Zinc Corporation.
Prairie Creek Mine has few regulatory hurdles left to tackle. Photo courtesy of Canadian Zinc Corporation.

While their information requests were fulfilled and concerns allayed, their biggest sticking point was the establishment of an Environmental Management Agreement to ensure environmental protections, mitigations and concerns are addressed.

Both First Nations and the miner requested that Bennett make the establishment of this agreement necessary before permits for the road building project be issued, but Bennett said the responsible ministers don’t have authority to direct the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board or Parks Canada to withhold, or insert conditions into, permits or licences.

According to the correspondence between the First Nations and the company, those negotiations are underway regardless and work is being done to establish the agreement.

Bennett wrote that these concerns can be further addressed during the board’s permit issuing processes.

NorZinc president and CEO Don MacDonald stated, in a press release, that the company was happy with the way things went.

“Our work will continue in the coming months towards issuance of the permit and to construction of the all-season road and the additional facilities to bring the high-grade Prairie Creek zinc-lead-silver mine into production,” he stated, adding that the work will include advancement of engineering, more de-risking of the project, gathering financing and going about pre-construction activities.

News/North was unable to reach Dehcho First Nations Grand Chief Gladys Norwegian or resource management coordinator Dahti Tsetso for comment by press time, as both were in Fort Providence for the historic Edehzhie protected area agreement signing.