Vancouver-based NorZinc signed an impact benefit agreement (IBA) with the Naha Dehe Dene Band today at the Vancouver AME Roundup conference.
The Prairie Creek Mine and the IBA will bring employment and business opportunities to the Nahanni Butte Dene Band through the NorZinc Ltd. Prairie Creek project, said Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Wally Schumann at the signing in Vancouver.
“Northerners support the responsible development of our resources,” said Schumann.
Earlier this month, the company signed a land use agreement with the band in Nahanni Butte, which addressed construction and operation of the Prairie Creek all-season road, without which the mine would be unfeasible. Prairie Creek is an advanced-stage zinc, lead and silver mine.
Without the all-season road, the mine, which sits in an unsettled land claim area, would be unlikely to move forward, said Schumann.
The traditional land use agreement allows the company to build the road to connect the mine to the Liard Highway.
The mine sits within the northeastern portion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve, about 200 kilometres west of Fort Simpson.
The IBA signing took place at the annual Association for Mineral Exploration Roundup conference. Like all impact benefit agreements, the terms are confidential. News/North has reached out to the band for comment.
Nahanni Butte is the closest community to the Prairie Creek Mine site, which falls within their traditional territory.
Community buy-in integral, says CEO
NorZinc’s CEO told News/North in early January that gaining community support would determine the project’s success.
The initial decision on the Prairie Creek all-season road was delayed in January 2018, after the Naha Dehe Dene Band, Liidlii Kue First Nation and Dehcho First Nations relayed their concerns about consultation, benefits and traditional knowledge, News/North reported. Their concerns included environmental protection and Indigenous employment.
Naha Dehe Chief Peter Marcellais and Liidlii Kue Chief Gerry Antoine both wrote letters to Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett voicing their support for the project in June 2018.
Neighbouring Liidlii Kue First Nation will take part in environmental management of the site alongside Naha Dehe Dene Band, said NorZinc Ltd. CEO Don MacDonald in his opening remarks.
The mine could have a potential 25 to 30 years of operation, said MacDonald.
Lawyer Garth Wallbridge appeared on behalf of the band to acknowledge the agreement between the company and Naha Dehe Dene Band.
“I regularly have elders say to me, and I say to you on their behalf, we want this mine built. We want the road built,” said Wallbridge.
The community has around 100 people and “modest” employment opportunities, he said.
“We continue to move ahead and we’re glad to do that. Highway 7 needs work and hopefully along with all the other many responsibilities and duties and considerations the GNWT has, we’ll get more work on Highway 7,” said Wallbridge.