September 23, 2015 - 11:43 AM
KAMLOOPS - About a week after mining company KGHM submitted its provincial environmental application for the proposed Ajax Mine project, two bands have officially filed land title papers with the B.C. Supreme Court.
Paperwork was filed with the courts by Stk’emlupsemc of the Secwepemc Nation, a group that represents the Skeetchestn First Nation and Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc. The title claim was first announced in June for the same land KGHM plans to use for the project, which includes Jacko Lake.
“We have never ceded, surrendered or given up any of our lands or interests. We have a sacred responsibility to protect and assert jurisdiction over our territory and it is imperative that we stand up and protect our natural resources for the next generations. The status quo process of decision making on natural resource development has not worked and will never work,” Shane Gottfriedson of Tk’emlúps te Secwepemc says in a release.
Skeetchestn Chief Ron Ignace echoes the same sentiment.
"Our law tells us that if we do not show respect in passing or using this area the land and sky will turn on us,” he says. "Secwepemc Law and our title dictates that we are the rightful decision-makers on the use of lands and resources in this area."
The Stk’emlupsemc of the Secwepemc Nation is also hosting a round of information sessions about the proposed mine for band members.
KGHM's environmental application will take up to 30 days to process. If accepted as complete, the application will undergo a 180-day review for the public and community groups can provide input.
City council plans to carry out an independent review with a private consulting firm. That review will be funded by KGHM.
When the First Nations group first announced they were declaring aboriginal title of the lands around in and around Jacko Lake KGHM spokesperson Robert Koopmans said the issue was complex but the company would continue to work with local bands.
"KGHM Ajax respects the rule of law as well as First Nations’ assertion of title and will continue to consult with area bands as we work through the environmental assessment process. The issues being raised are larger than the Ajax Project, and involve questions of ownership and tenure that extend well past local borders." an email statement from KGHM said today, Sept. 23. "These are matters that have been outstanding in B.C. for decades. We plan to work with all parties, including First Nations and governments, to the greatest extent of our ability to help bring resolution to these important concerns, at least with regard to the proposed Ajax Project."
If approved the proposed Ajax Mine is an open-pit copper and gold mine would operate immediately southwest of Kamloops.
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— This story was updated at 3:14 p.m., Sept. 23, 2015, to include a statement from KGHM.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015