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Bands' deal with mine hinges on environmental assessment.

Bands' deal with mine hinges on environmental assessment

The outcome of the environmental assessment of Consolidated Professor's Duport gold mine project will have a direct effect on negotiations presently under way between Consolidated and Native Bands 39 and 40 of the Shoal Lake Reserve, according to Band 39 Chief Eli Mandamin and Consolidated president G.R. Cunningham Dunlop.

"We have finally received the terms of reference from the Ministry of Environment for our environmental assessment report, after a nine-month delay," stated Dunlop. "Good progress has been made with the preparation of the report, but the process through to final public hearings and approval will take at least 12 months."

Consolidated Professor was the first private-sector mine to be designated under Ontario's Environmental Assessment Act in August 1989 by then-Minister Jim Bradley.

"We have excellent support from the two Native bands and are close to an agreement to provide employment benefits to the bands," Dunlop added.

In turn, Consolidated Professor would secure certain land-use privileges on reserve land. The Duport project, which has an estimated construction value of $53 million, is expected to inject $15 million in wages and expenditures into the Kenora area, with 45 of the projected 175 permanent jobs going to the Native residents of Shoal Lake.

This is welcome news to the Native community of 500 which has an unemployment rate of more than 50 per cent.

"We are obviously optimistic," stated Mandamin. "We have a lot of hope, but we are cautious because in the past we have always gotten the dirty end of the stick over matters of land use and resource benefits."

Commercial fishing and wild rice harvesting were once the principal sources of revenue for the bands. However, commercial fishing was suspended in 1981 due to a depletion of walleye stock.

A 1980 bid by Band 40 to develop 35 cottage lots on Indian Bay, the site of Winnipeg's water intake was blocked by City of Winnipeg officials who were concerned about water quality. The Shoal Lake Bands' development proposal was less than half the scale of the extensive cottage and recreational development of Falcon Lake, Man. which drains directly into Shoal Lake.

A 1989 agreement between the Greater Winnipeg Water District and Bands 39 and 40 saw $6 million placed in a trust for the bands with the interest to be used by them to fund alternative development projects. The agreement was conditional upon a contribution of $3 million by the federal government.

The resources of Shoal Lake have been an ongoing dispute since the early 1900s. The first gold deposit was discovered on Cameron Island on Shoal Lake in 1897, and mining has been part of the area's activities ever since.

Shoal Lake is also the sole source of water for the City of Winnipeg.

Since the early 1970s cottage development has increased rapidly to become a significant factor in the present dispute over resource disbursement.

The issue, according to Chief Mandamin, appears to be one of control, rather than concern for the environment.

"The issue with both the City of Winnipeg officials and their principal counterparts in the Manitoba government is power and control over land use. They want complete control over our resources. The environment and compensation for use of our resources are low on their priority list," he said.

"We have lived through three mines that have operated on Shoal Lake since 1930. We still drink the water directly from the lake and will make every effort to protect our water quality. Of the 28 points contained in our proposed agreement with Consolidated Professor, the environmental impact of the mine is our number one concern."

Economic benefits to the Shoal Lake Reserve will include business opportunities such as motel accommodations, recreational facilities, a laundromat and other service-type ventures. Under discussion is the routing of the main access road to the mine through the native community, allowing the development of a business sector.

Although Consolidated Professor Mines has proposed a long list of environmental safeguards which include the exclusion of hazardous materials on the Stevens Island mine site, locating the mainland gold recovery plant outside of the Shoal Lake watershed, a stringent water-quality monitoring system and a pressure oxidation gold recovery process (patented by Consolidated in 1976), project development has been delayed.

According to Consolidated Professor sources, the delay is due to the actions of two local cottagers who were instrumental in the formation of the Winnipeg Water Protection Group to oppose any mining operations in the Shoal Lake area.

The company says many other cottage owners have co-operated with the company and are prepared to judge the project on an objective basis. The activist group, however, agitated for political intervention by the Manitoba and federal governments to persuade Ontario to designate the project under the Environmental Assessment Act.

While Consolidated Professor waits for approval from the Ministry of Environment, the Shoal Lake Bands are moving closer to the final agreement with the mining company.

"Our council is now ready to discuss the agreement with our lawyers and technical advisers," said Mandamin.
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Author:Hopper, Jim
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Words:843
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