Government learned from mining rush and results following Voisey's Bay discovery
The Nunatsiavut Government is open to seeing mining exploration inside its land claim area, but the president of Nunatsiavut is also making it clear consideration must be given to the environment and the future of the land by any mining companies entering the area.
President Sarah Leo was in St. John's Friday and spoke at the Mineral Resources Review 2012 mining conference at the Delta Hotel and Conference Centre.
In her address, Leo made note of the fact the ban on uranium exploration was lifted by the aboriginal government earlier this year.
She acknowledged the real potential for mineral finds and developments in the expanses of northern Labrador.
"We encourage (exploration) investment and development," she said.
However, Leo also spoke about the measures put in place to see that developments and exploration work does not, ultimately, negatively affect the Inuit of Nunatsiavut.
She said the government's measures are, in part, a direct result of the actions of exploration companies who rushed into the area in the 1990s, following on the heels of the Voisey's Bay discovery.
Some of those companies acted irresponsibly, she explained, leaving behind environmental concerns to be dealt with by the people - for example, she said, piles of drums with fuel left inside to leak out.
The government now has exploration and quarrying standards aimed at preventing irresponsible activities and irreparable harm to the land.
"Through implementation of the financial security requirement, exploration companies are cleaning up their act," Leo said. "This exploration regime is working well."
Before concluding, she spoke briefly about power needs, saying significant mineral exploration and development will require affordable power.
Many communities within the Nunatsiavut land claim area are still reliant on diesel generators, she said, with little excess power available for industrial development.
She called upon Nalcor Energy to do more to press ahead with finding a replacement for the isolated diesel systems - something the Crown corporation has stated it is looking at.
Aboriginal consultation policy
Meanwhile, Newfoundland and Labrador's minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Felix Collins, took to the podium at the same conference, the day before Leo, in one of his first appearances in his new role.
Collins said the provincial government is continuing to work on a new aboriginal consultation policy relevant to mining companies.
It will not be of much concern to Leo's government or the Innu of Labrador, as their accepted claims have resulted in protections and specific requirements for consultations, to be applied in the case of an industrial development or mineral exploration company looking to work in their area.
The policy is aimed at guiding interactions with other aboriginal groups, who are without settled land claims or claims in negotiation.
Namely, it is for the NunatuKavut Community Council, Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach and the Innu communities of Matimekush-Lac John, Uashat mak Mani-Utenam, Ekuanitshit, Nutakuan, Unamen Shipu and Pakua Shipu.
Collins, who has taken over the aboriginal affairs portfolio from Nick McGrath, made the point that a 2004 Supreme Court ruling established the "duty to consult" on developments, meaning project proponents have to consult, even if there is no land claim acknowledged by government.
All that is required is a reasonable, asserted claim.
However, Collins said ideally all aboriginal concerns would be addressed by proponents before an application to proceed with a mining project is ever made to the government.
The new aboriginal consultation policy is expected to be in place early in 2013.