Grassy Narrows needs a voice on mining | Letters

The Ojibwa people of Grassy Narrows know firsthand how irresponsible mining can be

Mining at Grassy Narrows will damage the environment, our culture and our lives. We already lost our waterfront community and our way of life to strip mining at Big Falls. We cannot afford the additional health, psychological and other impacts of another mine.

When Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited the Cataract/Grassy Narrows area in August 2018, he was confronted by the people of Grassy Narrows for his inaction on this shameful injustice. We were told that Trudeau had promised us that he would fight for us and do everything in his power to stop the BHP/Acacia Mining expansion of the Manantial Espejo gold mine at Grassy Narrows, but that nothing had been done. As a result, Cataract invited our representatives to be part of the delegation of Grassy Narrows First Nations to Ottawa to give voice to our concerns. We talked with Trudeau about the urgent need to withdraw permission for the project to move forward. Trudeau listened and responded by telling us that in the coming days and weeks he would have a number of meetings to discuss the mine with the government of Ontario and representatives of the Cataract band.

We understand that other First Nations will also be giving voice to the many outstanding concerns they have with this project, including the danger to our water system, the continued theft of our treaty rights, the threat to fish and wildlife in the vicinity, and the destructive impacts of the mine on the entire watershed from where it sits, down through the Algonquin corridor. The Quebec government recently said it will ask the company to run water samples at various sites around the proposed mine, including ours, to check for mercury. Tests at the Manantial Espejo mine in the early 1990s found high levels of mercury, which the company said was caused by contaminated watershed. Mercury poisoning has caused such serious health problems for our people that the federal and provincial governments agreed that indigenous people from Cataract and Grassy Narrows could obtain free treatment of mercury-related illnesses.

The province has previously proposed a no-mine zone for our lands. However, BHP/Acacia plans to mine from land in a designated no-mine zone, and to add 11 million tonnes of rock waste on top of the 4.4m tonnes of rock and debris it already has dumped in the area. By this time, BHP/Acacia would have been digging under an underground core, within 20 metres of the core, and operating on top of the core, below the bedrock that ultimately supports the core. This would mean that not only would BHP/Acacia use the rock waste to feed its own operations, but it would also be placing rocks above our homes and irrigation systems for at least 50 years.

We have strong concerns with this extreme expansion.

We are all proud of our democracy, and of the local and national governments that see the need to increase the potential for jobs in Grassy Narrows by all means necessary, including construction and mining. Our confidence in these governments and in the proposed mine itself has been shaken because BHP/Acacia has refused to take any responsibility for the damage it has already caused in our community.

We are calling on our First Nations representatives to join us, to ensure that our concerns are heard and that our peoples are valued and respected in Grassy Narrows and in Canada.

Zuhsua Lathers

Mona Grace Dague

Theresa Gair

Margaret Norris

Esme White

Yuliett Sandon-Wilson

James Norwood Lake

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