On Tuesday, June 12, Nak’azdli First Nation signed an economic development agreement with the provincial government.
After two years, the Nak’azdli negotiating team, which included Chief Fred Sam, Leonard Thomas, Ann Marie Sam and a lawyer, both parties were satisfied enough to sign.
The deal will see Nak’azdli receive a 12.5 per cent share in mineral tax revenue from the Mount Milligan Mine during its projected lifespan.
While this is estimated to mean $24 million over the life of Mount Milligan Mine, the actual amount will depend completely on metal prices, operational life of the mine and other market factors.
The money will not be handled by the Nak’azdli Band Council, but instead will be managed by an independent trustee group and the province has already given some suggested direction of how they would like to see the money spent, including in areas like education, according to Chief Sam.
The agreement marks a major step forward for the relationship between Nak’azdli and the province.
“This is the beginning of a relationship between Naka’zdli and the province of British Columbia,” said Chief Fred Sam in a release.
The agreement is said to place a strong focus on community development to assist Nak’azdli First Nation in its social and economic goals.
The province has said this agreement will help add certainty to future projects, but Nak’azdli does not see the agreement impacting their stance on Northern Gateway.
“I think we’re still saying no to the Northern Gateway,” he said.
The agreement sees Nak’azdli receiving the same terms as the McLeod Lake Indian Band, which signed an agreement with the province in 2010 regarding Mount Milligan.
McLeod Lake also has an agreement directly with Thompson Creek Metals Inc., which owns Mount Milligan Mine.
Naka’zdli has yet to sign with Thompson Creek Metals directly, but Chief Sam said Nak’azdli had tried to have the province push Thompson Creek to further negotiations with the First Nation. He said discussions with the company are planned.
“Hopefully that starts soon,” he said.