The Nenqay Deni Accord signed on February 12, 2016 between the B.C. government and the Tsilhqot’in National Government is an important and potentially precedent-setting agreement that may have major implications to broader public and third-party interests within a large area (estimated to be 66,000 square kilometres) of public lands in the Province of British Columbia.
The Accord establishes a framework for reconciliation between the Tsilhqot’in and the Province, but it does not outline how the two parties will implement the Accord in regards to our member’s interests, and the public’s interests, in valuable sub-surface mineral resources in the Accord area. AME fully supports reconciliation between BC First Nations and the Province; however, we believe that reconciliation must be achieved in a manner that respects all interests and which enhances investor confidence in BC.
What’s really happening
The Nenqay Deni Accord affects a large area of central BC (see Accord and map http://bit.ly/1XtAOP1), within which the Tsilhqot’in member nations will be provided far-reaching management and control of lands to be divided into either Category A or Category B lands. In the case of Category A lands, the Accord proposes recognition of Tsilhqot’in member nations’ rights to ownership of lands and resources, including rights to enact laws and decide land uses. The specific lands have yet to be identified, but they will be in addition to the 1,750 square kilometres already included as Tsilhqot’in aboriginal title lands resulting from the 2014 Supreme Court of Canada’s judgment. Importantly, there is nothing in the Accord that prevents Category A lands from being established in the claim area where the court has already considered and determined Tsilhqot’in aboriginal title does not exist. The Accord sets out a five year period to consult with stakeholders and identify future Category A and B lands.
AME’s initial assessment of the Nenqay Deni Accord raises significant concerns for the mineral exploration and development industry, especially in regards to the lack of consultation preceding this Accord and the security of existing and future mineral tenures held on public land in BC. Security of tenure is critical to our industry, and uncertainty in this regard acts as a deterrent to investment and comes at a time when BC’s mineral resource industry is already facing serious economic challenges.
What action AME is taking
AME has raised its concerns in discussions with government officials and through a public news release on February 17, 2016. AME is looking forward to the opportunity for the Province and the Tsilhqot’in to conduct broad and timely community and stakeholder engagement in order to better understand the Nenqay Deni Accord and the extent of implications to mineral explorers and developers in BC, and how it will serve to:
- Protect the existing interests and rights of B.C.’s mineral tenure and lease holders, explorers and developers;
- Ensure the future opportunity to acquire and maintain secure mineral tenures on public and private lands throughout British Columbia as per the Mineral Tenure Act;
- Improve access to (and investment in) the public’s sub-surface mineral resources; and
- Achieve effective and efficient reconciliation with the Tsilhqot’in Nation in both a pragmatic and balanced way.
AME’s Board of Directors has created a task force to better understand the implications of the Accord and to communicate AME’s concerns and recommendations to government officials. AME is closely monitoring the situation and will expect to be included in discussions to identify future Category A and B lands as well as be regularly briefed by government officials about the Accord’s implementation.
The timely and enhanced community and stakeholder engagement over the next five years outlined by government provides a window for all mineral explorers and developers to remind government officials and the public that BC’s hidden and valuable mineral resources belong to all the citizens of the Province.
Sub-surface mineral resources in B.C. are owned and administered by the Crown and managed in the public’s socio-economic and strategic interest – for the greater good. We encourage you to help communicate this message to government.
Additionally, if you have specific concerns related to the Accord, please contact Glen W. Wonders, AME’s Vice President, Technical & Government Affairs at 604.630.3928 or [email protected].
An effective way for us to continue such a joint solutions-based dialogue with government is to have strong relationships with regional representatives who are impacted, or could be impacted, by a current or future land use designation. Please reach out to Rick Conte at [email protected] or 604.630.3926 to share your concerns and recommendations.
We also ask that members continue to pressure government to protect BC’s valuable, but hidden, mineral resources to enable exploration and responsible mineral development for the long term benefit of all British Columbians.