Chief Gerald Antoine, right, at a signing ceremony on August 10, 2021. Photo: Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation
The Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation says it has signed impact benefit agreements with NorZinc for its planned Prairie Creek mine and all-season road.
In a news release on Wednesday, Chief Gerald Antoine said the agreements marked a “momentous occasion for our community and for NorZinc,” which hopes to turn Prairie Creek – around 100 km west of Fort Simpson – into a silver, zinc, and lead mine.
Details of the agreements were not made available. Rarely are the full contents of impact benefit agreements published.
The First Nation said the first agreement, related to the Prairie Creek mine itself, updated a deal agreed in 2011. The road-related agreement, which is new, provides “specific benefits and commitments to the community related to NorZinc’s all-season road.”
“The Dene of Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ never surrendered our land,” Chief Antoine was quoted as saying. “Major development projects within our shared Dene territory, like the proposed Prairie Creek mine and all-season road, need to ensure environmental protection of our lands and benefits for the Dene people.
“Dene involvement in environmental decision-making and meaningful economic participation is key to reconciliation and the ultimate success of any project on Dene lands.”
Rohan Hazelton, who became NorZinc’s president and chief executive in May, said the company had a “strong, collaborative partnership” with the First Nation and benefits would “flow directly.”
In a broad-brushstrokes summary of the agreements, the company and First Nation said they included “commitments to business opportunities that will enable Indigenous-owned businesses and members to participate in economic opportunities associated with the project.”
Training and employment commitments are also included, as is a Dene-led environmental monitoring program and a longer-term trust fund for the community.
NorZinc currently plans to build its all-season road to Prairie Creek – home to an earlier silver mine in the 1980s – in stages between 2022 and 2024.
There is no precise timeline for development and opening of the mine itself, for which the company continues to pursue financing. In the past, Prairie Creek’s developers have talked of plans that would create 300 or more jobs for the region, though it’s not clear if that remains the case.
An agreement with Nahanni Butte’s Nahæâ Dehé Dene Band was signed in 2019.