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First Nation and junior mining company reach exploration accord

Aroland First Nation issues permit, gives consent to exploration on traditional lands by Silver Spruce Resources
SilverSpruceResources 1
(Silver Spruce Resources photo)

Aroland First Nation and junior miner Silver Spruce Resources have signed an agreement to approve of exploration activities in northwestern Ontario.

The Indigenous community is issuing a permit to the Bedford, Nova Scotia company to do exploration on its Melchett Lake property, which sits within Aroland's traditional territory. This is a separate agreement outside of any provincial permitting process.

According to the company's website, Melchett Lake contains a mineral belt with several occurrences of zinc, lead, copper, silver, and gold. Silver Resources has other early-stage exploration projects in Mexico.

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"This is the way it should be," said Chief Dorothy Towedo in a March 25 statement.

"The company seeks the First Nation government's consent and is prepared to meet the conditions required to obtain that consent, so the First Nation issues its permit containing those conditions. We understand that the company needs the Crown government's permit too."

Aroland Councillor Mark Bell said Queen's Park often falls short in its approach to consultation.

"The Ontario Crown government, through ENDM (Energy, Northern Development and Mines), routinely does its 'consultation' on exploration through a form letter and formula timeframes with little else. This is not near enough. So First Nations are compelled to turn to the company. If the company is respectful of our right to free, prior and informed consent, then this gets us a positive result, as is the case in our current collaboration with Silver Spruce."

"We are very pleased to be in this mutually respectful and consent-based relationship with Aroland and look forward to working with them over the years to come," said Greg Davison, Silver Spruce's vice-president of exploration.

"This is how we operate to prevent confrontation. With Silver Spruce fully engaging in the collaboration, it will ensure smooth operations as we advance our mineral claims in and around Melchett Lake."

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The company's almost 4,000-hectare holdings are 60 kilometres north of Nakina. The property is accessible by road along the route of the former Anaconda/Dofasco iron mine and near the proposed all-season road to Marten Falls.

Aroland's lawyer Kate Kempton from OKT Law (Olthuis Kleer Townshend LLP) said the agreement addresses the community's concerns, including a land value and archaeological assessment being performed prior to exploration activity taking place.

"It provides for high standards and First Nation input on land use, environmental management and plans of the company. This is all to prevent and minimize impacts. And for those impacts that remain, it provides offsetting benefits like priority access to training, employment, contracting, and compensation and coverage for process costs," Kempton said.

"If the company wants to move toward a mine, then the exploration agreement provides for the need for a mine impact benefit agreement first."