Actions and Commitments

Call to Action # 92: Business and Reconciliation (92)

Feds announce millions to help First Nations negotiate mining deals

March 8, 2024

Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced millions in funding for Indigenous groups to advance critical mineral projects. Photo by Matteo Cimellaro / Canada’s National Observer Listen to article

Canada’s National Observer: Ottawa will provide over $15 million to assist First Nations and Indigenous groups considering mining deals on their ancestral lands.

The federal government’s funding announcement came Wednesday at the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada conference, one of the world’s largest mining industry gatherings, held this year in Toronto. About one-fifth of the financial support will be from the new Critical Minerals Infrastructure Fund.

The funding stream will award grants to Indigenous groups to support engagement, knowledge sharing and capacity building for critical mineral development. The new fund will stretch until 2030 and provide $13.5 million over that period.

The other significant portion of the funding, around $10.4 million, will be awarded to particular Indigenous groups to advance projects and capacity building. The groups include:

  • Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation in the N.W.T. — $1,974,675
  • Global Indigenous Development Trust — $2,408,543
  • Saskatchewan First Nations Natural Resources Centre of Excellence — $4,500,000
  • Accurate Industries (Ministikwan Lake Cree Nation) in Saskatchewan — $234,467
  • Fond du Lac Denesuline First Nation in Saskatchewan — $688,998
  • Keewatin Tribal Council in Manitoba — $324,432
  • Birdtail Sioux Dakota Nation in Manitoba — $352,500

The projects will be part of the Indigenous Natural Resource Partnerships program, which helps Indigenous communities participate in resource development.

In 2023, the program was 80 per cent oversubscribed, according to a briefing note to Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson that was obtained by Canada’s National Observer. It forced the department to pause the program “to ensure program integrity,” according to the documents.

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At the time of the pause, around $34 million remained in the program’s budget, according to the program’s web page. 

Meanwhile, Indigenous groups in Ontario are filing injunctions against the province and calling for moratoriums on mining claims.

On Tuesday, Russell Wesley, chief of Cat Lake First Nation, told reporters at Queen’s Park that his community obtained an injunction over winter roads that would lead to a proposed gold mine in a region that is environmentally and culturally important.

Wesley told Canada’s National Observer previously that the territory where the mine is proposed is a key harvesting area, with traplines, high-traffic moose-hunting grounds and a lake that contains rare trout. The region is used by many of the 600 Cat Lake community members.

Last fall, the Chiefs of Ontario also called for a one-year moratorium on mining claims, which the province rejected this week. Indigenous leadership in Ontario is looking for reforms similar to those in British Columbia, where the province’s highest court ruled that mining claims must undergo a consultation process.

Reginald Niganobe, grand council chief of Anishinabek Nation, told Canada’s National Observer that First Nations are not equipped to deal with an endless stream of mining claims. He said nations have limited funds and people to properly examine and manage them. 

“It’s very daunting on them, especially if you have like 200 claims in your territory. How do you deal with all of those? How do you engage with all them all at once?” Niganobe explained.

Matteo Cimellaro / Canada’s National Observer / Local Journalism Initiative