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Nahanni Butte Dene Band signs funding agreement
Community negotiating a larger agreement with Selwyn Chihong Mining

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Nahanni Butte Dene Band has signed a resource funding agreement with a mining company.

NNSL photo/graphic

The Nahanni Butte Dene Band hopes to secure economic opportunities from the Selwyn Project a lead and zinc mine. Part of the project's access road passes through the band's traditional territory. - NNSL file photo

On April 17 the band signed the agreement with Selwyn Chihong Mining Ltd. The company is working on the Selwyn Project, made up of a series of 13 known lead and zinc deposits primarily located on the Yukon side of the NWT/Yukon border, where it plans to open two underground mines.

The project is accessible via the Howard Pass access road. A portion of the road lies within the Nahanni Butte Dene Band's traditional territory.

The resource funding agreement is part of a work plan which will assist in negotiating a larger community agreement, said Justin Himmelright, the vice-president of environmental and community affairs for the company.

This agreement will provide the First Nation with funds to allow for good representation at the negotiating table, he said. The community agreement, which is also known as a socio-economic or access and benefits agreement, will establish a framework for co-operation between the community and the company, said Himmelright.

The agreement will include outline communication between the two parties as well as how participation in environmental assessment reviews will take place. It may also contain training, employment and contract opportunities for the community.

"We have an interest in establishing a relationship with Nahanni Butte for a variety of different purposes," Himmelright said.

Among those purposes is mitigating disruption to traditional land use practices and community members caused by the access road, he said.

The community wants to work together with the company as well as with Parks Canada to protect the land, animals and water near the road, said Chief Fred Tesou of the Nahanni Butte Dene Band. Approximately 40 km of the road runs through the Deh Cho, including 20 km through the Nahanni National Park Reserve. An additional 40 km runs through the Sahtu.

The community also hopes for economic benefits from the project, Tesou said.

"The way things are going right now, we need resources for the community," he said.

Tesou said so far the company has been doing a good job meeting and negotiating with the community.

"They are really up front with things," he said.

Selwyn Chihong recently received a 30-year licence of occupation for the portion of the road that is under the jurisdiction of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. A draft licence for the section of the road in the Nahanni National Park Reserve has been received from Parks Canada and is being reviewed.

The company has yet to apply for the permits it will need from the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board and Parks Canada, to expand and change the purpose of the access road. The company is currently focusing on a feasibility study of the Selwyn Project that is expected to be completed late this year, said Himmelright. The company plans to enter into the permitting process in both the NWT and the Yukon after the study is complete.

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