After all the struggles, disappointments and broken agreements, Barriere Lake can finally celebrate a victory. The Algonquin community, with the help of Mining Watch Canada, has managed to get a copper mining exploration project put on hold for at least two years.
The Rivière Doré copper mining project that Cartier Resources was set to carry out on the various claims that they had staked on Algonquin territory would have been executed without consultation or compensation for the people of Barriere Lake.
Activities on the land came to an abrupt halt in March when Cartier Resources finally complied with a request by the community to cease all activities and leave the exploration site.
In May, the community Elder’s Council wrote the Quebec Minister of Natural Resources and Wildlife and the CEO of Cartier Resources stating that the community would peacefully blockade any activities on their traditional territory. This would go on until such time as the historic 1991 Trilateral Agreement that the community signed with both Quebec and Canada is finally implemented.
The agreement details a co-management system with both Quebec and Canada and provides guidelines for resource revenue sharing resulting from development on Barriere Lake’s territory.
Despite this, neither the province nor Ottawa ever respected the deal, leaving Barriere Lake as one Canada’s poorest communities. It was also supposed to ensure the community was connected to the nearby Hydro Quebec grid, but the community remains, 20 years later, without a reliable source of electricity.
“The community is very pleased that the company has, contrary to many other situations in Quebec, accepted the community’s position and made a commitment to not pursue work on the site. The suspension will go until 2013 and during that time no work will be done on the site. The claims will be held in suspension which means that they will not be freed up for another company to stake them but – we are not clear as to what the company’s next step might be,” said Ramsay Hart of Mining Watch Canada.
Hart also noted that the community’s council, imposed by Ottawa against the community’s wishes a year ago, was of little help.
Community representative Michel Thusky said there is relief in the community regarding the mining project, but that people are still very frustrated with the non-implementation of the agreement.
“It is our identity that is at stake here because we rely on the land for the survival of our language and the survival of our people. Our Elders have their knowledge and we want to make sure that this knowledge and our culture survives all of the impacts, in other words, we have to have a say on how the land has been managed. They have contributed to this idea of co-management with the territory,” said Thusky.
With that in mind, Thusky is hoping newly elected MP Romeo Saganash will visit the community and take their cause to government.
“We have worked with Saganash’s community, the Cree nation in the past and hopefully he will have a better understanding of our issues as at one point in the early 90s we worked with their Grand Chief, Matthew Coon Come in promoting the preservation of our identity,” noted Thusky.