By Nicole Trigg
Mining projects in the Elk Valley generate approximately 90 per cent of the coal mined in British Columbia each year and now the Columbia Valley’s Akisqnuk First Nation stands to see greater benefit from that economic activity.
A new Economic and Community Development Agreement, signed between the Province of British Columbia and the Ktunaxa Nation Council in late January, is the the fourth of its kind in B.C. It will ensure the four Ktunaxa Nation communities — the
local Akisqnuk First Nation as well as St. Mary’s, Tobacco Plains and Lower Kootenay — share the direct mineral tax revenue from new coal mine projects.
“We currently are working on what we’re calling an internal revenue-sharing agreement,” Akisqnuk chief Lorne Shovar told The Pioneer. “It hasn’t been finalized at this point in time, but there is one that is in the works.
“Until that is fully developed and approved, it’s really hard to say how each of the communities will benefit exactly,” he added.
Mining is a major economic driver in B.C., and economic and community development agreements are designed to create certainty on the land base for the industry as well as develop partnerships with local First Nations in order to address the socio-economic gap between aboriginals and non-aboriginals.
Under the agreement, which covers the entire 66,000 square kilometre area of the Ktunaxa traditional territory, the Ktunaxa Nation will invest the economic spinoff to support community initiatives and social programs that enhance the well-being of its communities and citizens in the areas of education, health, housing, cultural revitalization, economic development, land stewardship and governance.
“The Ktunaxa Nation is pleased that we have reached this agreement with the province of B.C.” said Ktunaxa Nation Chair Kathryn Teneese in a statement. “(It will) provide current and future generations a benefit from the resources extracted within our territory.”
The Ktunaxa Nation agreement is also good news for the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia, the lead association for the mineral exploration and development industry in the province.
“The signing of an economic and community development agreement between the B.C. government and four Ktunaxa Nation communities creates more certainty for everyone and further strengthens B.C.’s reputation as a province that values mutually beneficial relationships between industry, government and local First Nations,” said Gavin Dirom, the president and chief executive officer of the association.
The agreement replaces the Ktunaxa Nation Council’s existing Forest Revenue Sharing Agreement, which was based strictly on forestry harvest activities in the traditional territory. While the coal mining section of the agreement focusing on the Elk Valley coal fields is a new revenue-sharing stream, the forest section of the agreement is providing $917,537 in revenue-sharing for 2013-2014.
The new agreement also links to the Strategic Engagement Agreement signed between B.C. and Ktunaxa Nation in 2010, which involves the Ktunaxa Nation in the decision-making process about new mine projects.
“This agreement will provide significant social and economic benefits to the Ktunaxa Nation while creating certainty for industry in a key resource area of the province,” said Energy, Mines and Natural Gas minister Rich Coleman in a press release. “It is a very positive step for the Ktunaxa Nation, the mining sector and for the region as a whole.”
The three other First Nations that have signed economic and community development agreements with the province are the McLeod Lake Indian Band and Nak’azdli First Nation with regards to the Mt. Milligan Mine north of Fort St. James, and the Stk’emlupsemc of the Secwepemc Nation to share mineral tax royalties from the New Afton Mine near Kamloops.