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First Nations dispute process on Clayoquot mining project

Aerial photo of Clayoquot Sound.

Sander Jain

A B.C. First Nation is crying foul over mining exploration plans in Clayoquot Sound, saying the plans are moving ahead despite a lack of consultation and the First Nation's repeated objections to mining in the area.

The province, however, says a recent exploration permit was issued after a "thorough consultation process," including numerous meetings with First Nations, and that work that has been approved would result in "minimal surface disturbance."

The dispute concerns the Fandora mine site, a former gold mine about 20 kilometres northeast of Tofino that has been closed for decades.

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Selkirk Metals, a subsidary of Imperial Metals, recently obtained a permit for exploration work at the site. The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation says it opposes mining in what it considers its territory and are not satisfied with the level of consultation by the company and the province.

"Throughout those years of consultation, we have only sent the ministry letters of opposition and concern about the lack of process," Tla-o-qui-aht councillor Saya Masso said on Monday. "We are trying to encourage our hatcheries, our green energy projects …we are not against development, it is sustainable development that we want."

Environmental groups have for several years raised concerns about potential mines in Clayoquot Sound, including a potential copper-mine project near Ahousat.

Imperial Metals has interests in three operating mines and is developing the Red Chris copper-gold mine. That project, located near Dease Lake in northwestern B.C., hinges on completion of the Northwest Transmission Line, which is currently under construction and scheduled to be complete in 2014.

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