By Jennifer Thurbide
Rubicon Minerals Limited’s proposed Phoenix Gold Project received a court challenge for Christmas last month as Wabauskang First Nation (WFN) filed a lawsuit asking a provincial court to “either suspend or entirely cancel” the company’s previously approved closure plan.
The First Nation says the documents were filed in the Ontario Superior Court and the lawsuit relies on a previous court challenge by Grassy Narrows First Nation in Keewatin where last year the Superior Court found that only the federal government can justify an infringement of treaty rights.
“We will oppose Rubicon’s mine until our Treaty rights are respected,” said Chief Leslie Cameron in a statement on Dec. 21. “We would rather not go to court, but until Canada and Ontario fulfill their responsibilities to us, we have no choice.”
Cameron argues that if the province of Ontario has jurisdiction over the closure plan, it unlawfully delegated its responsibilities to Rubicon.
Rubicon Minerals has been working towards a 2014 start up of the Phoenix Gold Project, located on the past McFinley mine site and former Chief Executive Officer David Adamson noted in a release the company has “in good faith, met with community representatives of Wabauskang First Nation and Aboriginal communities” throughout the planning process.
“While we remain committed to the consultation process and invite WFN back to the negotiating table to discuss the terms of a benefits agreement, we will vigorously defend our record and this petition which we believe to be without merit. Construction activities, including shaft sinking and mill construction continue to progress at the Phoenix Gold Project,” said Adamson on Dec. 17 in advance of the petition being filed.
Mike Lalonde, who assumed CEO duties at the start of this year, told media the company has spent $300,000 working with the First Nation related to environmental reviews, financial analysis, a traditional land study, meetings, travel for band members and providing legal assistance to the band.
Fees were also paid to a consultant hand-picked by Wabauskang to complete an environmental review, said Lalonde.
“There were a number of concerns brought up by that environmental consultant…Every one of those concerns were addressed in the mine plans and with the closure plan. We have addressed every issue.”
However, Cameron says the problem isn’t with the company itself but with the government for approving the plan and delegating the duty to consult to companies.
“We know that Ontario has been informing companies that any authorizations they get in the Keewatin lands may not be valid because the court has found that Ontario doesn’t have jurisdiction to issue authorizations. We think Rubicon’s closure plan is an example of an authorization that will ultimately be cancelled by the court.”
The First Nation also says they are paying close attention to a pending decision between Wahogshig First Nation and Solid Gold Resources.