They will be no quick-fix to a land
dispute between two mining companies over a road corridor to the Ring
Cliffs Natural Resources' pursuit of an
easement to cross the mining claims of KWG Resources will have to be
decided by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR).
Ontario's Mining and Lands Commissioner
ruled Aug. 24 that it has no jurisdiction to rule on the matter of
surface rights on public lands.
The tribunal said surface rights issues
of Crown land falls on the shoulders of the natural resource minister
under the Public Lands Act.
Cliffs is seeking an easement to cross
some of the mining claims of KWG in order to drive a 260-kilometre
ore haul road corridor from its Black Thor chromite project in the
James Bay lowlands, south to CN Rail's transcontinental line at a
place called Cavell.
When KWG refused to grant Cliffs
access, the matter was referred to the commissioner by the Ministryof Northern Development and Mines.
Ironically, Cliffs and KWG are 70-30
partners in the Big Daddy chromite deposit in the Ring of Fire.
Neskantaga First Nation injected
themselves into the process by applying to be a party to the
proceedings held last July in Toronto.
The remote Oji-Cree community of 300,
southwest of the Ring of Fire exploration camp, contends the proposed
mine and transportation corridor crosses their traditional land, and
they must be consulted with by government and recognized as an
affected party at the hearing.
In her ruling, commissioner Linda
Kamerman said the actual granting of an easement on Crown land can
only be done by the natural resources minister.
“Section 2 of the Public Lands Act
clearly states that the Minister of Natural Resources has control
over the disposition of public lands and no such power has been
assigned to the Mining and Lands Commissioner.”
The tribunal also dismissed
Neskantaga's application to be a party to the proceedings, adding the
tribunal is not jurisdictionally empowered to consider the larger
issue of First Nation consultation and, as a court of review, does
not speak for the province.
“The tribunal is not the Crown here,
nor is it making a Crown decision,” said Kamerman in her ruling.
"While the tribunal sympathizes
with Neskantaga's argument that processes involving decisions
concerning its traditional territory are proceeding without
recognition or invocation of its constitutional right, the tribunal
cannot behave like the proverbial tail wagging the dog in sympathy."
In an August 29 press release,
Neskantaga said its lawyers may consider an appeal.
The community further states it will
stop any road or bridge construction through its traditional land and
over the Attawapiskat River until proper government consultation
takes place and a joint review panel environmental assessment for the
Ring of Fire project is established.
“The decision is both good and bad
for us,” said Chief Peter Moonias.
“On one hand the commission won't
make a decision about stopping the road, but on the other hand it has
strongly acknowledged our First Nation's right to be consulted.”
In the meantime, KWG Resources has
filed applications with the MNR for 32 aggregate permits at locations
along its proposed 308-kilometre Ring of Fire railroad. The Toronto
junior has also filed preliminary plans to establish a float plane
aerodome at the northern end of the railroad to be designated as the
“Port of Koper Lake.”