Thanks to the hard work of our employees and the collaboration of our many partners, we have successfully implemented many different programs, ranging from the training of Crees for skilled jobs with Hydro-Quebec (over 50 Crees now occupy permanent positions), the rejuvenation of Cree community and family fisheries, the support of numerous cultural activities including summer gatherings and the enhancement of goose hunting facilities. This is not to mention the hundreds of kilometres of snowmobile and ATV trails already built throughout Eeyou Istchee.
On its 20th anniversary, Niskamoon Corporation salutes The Nation magazine and wishes it many more years of success and positive change.
Algonquins say Canada's largest gold mine project will leave poverty and environmental devastation when the riches are all gone
The Algonquins of Kitigan Zibi say Quebec's investment in a foreign-owned gold mine project at Malarctic demonstrates the government's complete disregard for their territorial rights to the region – to say nothing of the environmental costs of the controversial massive open-pit mine that will be carved from the earth.
Osisko Mining Corporation, which is controlled by the German firm Eurasia Holding AG, says it can potentially mine about six million ounces of gold from the project east of Val d'Or, worth more than $7 billion at today's prices, over the next decade. It's believed to be the biggest undeveloped gold deposit in Canada.
On November 9, the Quebec government's investment arm, the Société Générale de Financement (SGF), announced it would provide Osisko with $75 million in financing for the project. The Algonquins say this is on top of $18 million for a 20-kilometre electricity line to connect the mine to its network and a further $11.5 million to develop the site where Osisko will send its tailings.
"This announcement is an insult to the Algonquin Nation, which has Aboriginal title to those lands," said Lucien Wabononik, the Grand Chief of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council. "Quebec is a lot faster to help wealthy foreign mining companies than the original inhabitants of the territory."
Wabanonik notes that Quebec's contributions to the project are being pledged even before the government's environmental assessment agency, the Bureau d’audiences publiques en environnement (BAPE), has issued its approval of the project – which is nonetheless already well underway as Osisko has begun moving residences away from the neighbourhood of the mine.
Wabanonik is especially concerned about the environmental impact of the mine. Canadian gold mining operations elsewhere in the world have become infamous as ecological disaster zones.
"Gold mines use a lot – a lot – of water," he emphasized. "We don't know how much water from the region the company plans to use. The Environment Ministry is very aware of this. We cannot accept the risk of polluting the watershed in our territory."
Compared to the environmental costs, Wabanonik predicts the economic benefits to the region will be relatively few, observing that the company plans to wrap up the operation in 10 to 12 years. "The people around the area – even those in white society – won't get much work," said Wabanonik. "And if the project is sold to a bigger company, which is expected, that firm won't necessarily respect the promises that Osisko has made."
The Grand Chief pointed to the 2009 report of the Auditor General of Quebec. It revealed that 14 mines in the province had extracted and sold over $ 4.2 billion of minerals without paying any royalties. From 2002 to 2008, the Quebec mining industry had contributed just $259 million in fees instead of the $2 billion in royalties that should have been paid.
So far, Quebec has turned a deaf ear to the Algonquins' objections to the project. "They don't care, they just ignore us," said Wabanonik. "But they can't ignore us forever: this project is on Algonquin land. This has even been confirmed by legal advisors for the Grand Council of the Cree."
Wabanonik said the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation Tribal Council is considering a court action in order to obtain an injunction against the project while its claims to the territory are dealt with.
"Petitioning the court for an injunction is an option, but courts are generally hesitant to stop projects in which a lot of money has been invested," he admitted.
In the meantime, the Algonquins will work with other similarly minded groups in the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region and elsewhere to raise awareness of the project and to rally public opinion against it.
"The Algonquin people do not want charity, but the right to live decently on their territory and we intend to assert our rights by all means," Wabanonik said. "In 10 years, when Osisko will have taken all the gold from Malartic, prosperity will be gone, but the Algonquins will still be there. It is time that Quebec and Ottawa respect the decisions of their own institutions and initiate a real process of consultation and reconciliation with our nation.”