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Algonquins Critical of Quebec's Conflict of Interest with High Risk $4 Million Investment in Rare Earths Open Pit Mining Project

Source: 
Wolf Lake and Eagle Village First Nations
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KIPAWA, QUEBEC(Feb. 12, 2015) – ALGONQUIN TERRITORY – On January 15, 2015, the Quebec Minister for Mines, Luc Blanchette and the Quebec Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Geoffrey Kelley, met with the Chiefs of the Wolf Lake and Eagle Village First Nations to discuss several matters including the proposed Matamec Rare Earths open pit mine.

The Chiefs followed up their January 15th meeting with a letter they sent to the two Quebec Ministers’ today, stating in part:

Ministers Blanchette and Kelley we were disappointed in your responses regarding our questioning of the Quebec government purchase of shares into Matamec Explorations Inc. from our point of view it is a blatant conflict-of-interest when you buy into the company and then your government is supposed to have us believe the environmental process will be unbiased.

Furthermore, we learned from a Matamec Press Release dated January 26, 2015, just eleven days after we met, that your government has now entered into a joint venture with Matamec Explorations Inc. by investing $3 million in the company.

This action will not sit well with our Algonquin Peoples who have already publicly registered their objection to the proposed Rare Earth elements open pit mine and related infrastructure.

The two Algonquin First Nations were already opposed to Quebec's initial $1,000,000 investment in Matamec Explorations Inc., which was done without consulting them about the company's primary asset - the Kipawa Rare Earths Project, or about this latest decision to invest an additional $3,000,000 in the company as a Joint Venture, bringing the Quebec government investment up to $4,000,000, again without any consultation with the two Algonquin First Nations.

The two Algonquin First Nations believe the Kipawa project has the potential for significant negative effects on their Aboriginal rights and title, environment and culture and have never provided consent for the project to move to the development phase.

Moreover, the two Algonquin First Nations are now demanding a moratorium on the mining of toxic rare earths in Quebec. This position is supported by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL) Chiefs’ Assembly.

On November 19, 2014, the two Algonquin Chiefs told the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE) Inquiry Commission Hearings on Uranium Industry Issues in Quebec:

after a detailed analysis of the available information on the various aspects of rare earths and uranium activities, our First Nation renews our firm and definite opposition to the development of Rare Earths and uranium industries on our traditional lands.

Our First Nation therefore calls for a complete moratorium on the exploration and mining of rare earths and uranium on our traditional lands.

Given the Algonquins' assertion of Aboriginal Rights and Title and the recent Supreme Court decision in Tsilhqot'in, which sets out a framework for the progressive establishment of Aboriginal Title - Quebec stands a good chance of losing its substantial investment of public funds.

Matamec Explorations Inc. proposes the construction, operation and decommissioning of a rare earths open-pit mine about 40 kilometres east of the municipality of Kipawa on a territory where the two Algonquin First Nations assert Aboriginal Title and/or Rights. The proposed project would process 1.3 million tonnes of ore per year over a 15-year operation period.

By law, Canada and Quebec still have a duty to consult and accommodate the two First Nations regarding any project approvals for this and any other proposed mine.

Eagle Village Chief Madeleine Paul stated today, "We already objected to Quebec's first investment of $1 million in Matamec shares last fall and once again without consulting us, Quebec has invested $3 million more in a joint venture with Matamec. We told the Ministers in a face to face meeting on January 15th that this is a conflict-of-interest and only serves to undermine any trust by our Algonquin Peoples that the BAPE process is unbiased since the results go to the Premier and his Cabinet for a decision and they are in a Joint Venture with Matamec now."

Wolf Lake Chief Harry St. Denis also said, "As we have said before, there has never been a Rare Earths mine in Canada and the federal and provincial governments don't have any experience mining such toxic substances, which is why we want a moratorium on the Matamec Rare Earths open pit mine. The proposed Rare Earths mine is located on our Aboriginal Title territory and the consent of our Algonquin Peoples will be required, regardless of the outcomes of the BAPE or federal environmental Assessment processes. In January 2013, we provided the governments of Quebec, Ontario and Canada with a summary of our evidence so they have been given legal notice of our position on our Algonquin Title and Rights."

CONTACT INFORMATION

Chief Harry St. Denis
Wolf Lake First Nation
Office: (819) 627-9161 (English)

Chief Madeleine Paul
Eagle Village First Nation
Office: (819) 627-3455 (English & French)