After months of discussion between mining companies, First Nations and provincial officials, Manitoba now has a mineral development protocol.
Released on May 31, the protocol aims to lay down guidelines for discussions between the Crown, Indigenous groups and businesses during all stages of mining development in Manitoba, including what was described in a statement by the province as a “process guide and matrix for Crown/Indigenous consultation.”
“Work on the protocol included areas with active mineral claims and mineral development potential, and involved an extensive engagement process with open participation,” read a statement from a spokesperson for the Department of Growth, Enterprise and Trade.
The protocol also includes $500,000 in funding to support First Nations in implementing related plans.
A detailed response and action plan was supposed to be released last fall as part of the protocol process, with mining industry groups seeking clarification on duty to consult between mining companies and First Nations.
“We’re looking for the province to provide certainty in the area of duty to consult so that our companies know what they need to do to meet their due diligence to get their permits approved,” Mining Association of Manitoba Inc. executive director Andrea McLandress told The Reminder last year.
“If we had a really clear process – that’s what we’re looking at the province to do – then companies and investors just need to know what the cost is going to be and what the timeframes are. If there’s vagueness for what they need to do, how long it’s going to take, how long does the First Nation have to get back to the province, how long the province has to make a decision – it’s that uncertainty. Uncertainty deters investments.”
According to provincial officials, the report issued last year contained complexities and recommendations that added months onto the protocol’s final scheduled release.
“The recommendations in the co-chairs’ report were very detailed and resulted in comprehensive inter-departmental work,” said the Growth, Enterprise and Trade spokesperson. “A significant amount of policy work contributed in developing the protocol and setting a path forward for mineral development in Manitoba.”
“We are optimistic that the protocol and action plan will create certainty in order to advance projects in a timely way and ensure First Nations can be actively involved in all phases of development projects within their traditional territories.”
The Manitoba Métis Federation (MMF) took umbrage with the protocol, issuing a press release saying the Métis people were excluded from the protocol’s development.
“If the Métis are not consulted and accommodated, this will hurt companies in their exploration and developments. We will be filing in the court and [Manitoba Premier Brian] Pallister will try to blame others for his short-sightedness,” reads the MMF statement.
When asked about the MMF statement, the Growth, Enterprise and Trade spokesperson said groups had been invited but did not choose to take part.
“Many groups, but not everyone, chose to take part. Developing a protocol is a voluntary process and we’ll continue to work together with communities, including Métis communities, who are interested in advancing mineral development opportunities,” they said.