Wet’suwet’en First Nation (WFN) and Huckleberry Mines Ltd. have reached an amicable conclusion to at times adversarial negotiations which included threats of road blockades and the issuance of a ‘stop work order’ made by WFN to Huckleberry Mines.
The July 24 community investment agreement was described as a ‘win/win’ resolution of difficulties that successfully resolves disputes, including power line right-of-ways and road use.
The mine is located southwest of the WFN reserve near Burns Lake. Road access to the mine and a power line right-of-way also cross through the Felix George Indian Reserve #7.
Five members of the Wet’suwet’en are now employed at the mine, and a WFN economic development arm – the Yinka Dene Economic Development Limited Partnership (YLP) – has since won a competitive bid for a contract at the mine.
A previous agreement reached between Huckleberry Mines and the WFN was considered to no longer reflect an equitable arrangement of prosperity-sharing since the $455 million expansion of Huckleberry Mines was announced in January, 2012.
At the time of the 2012 announcement of the mine expansion, stable employment for the mines 230 employees was lauded as well as the potential for 70 new jobs.
This proved to be a contentious issue for WFN, who at the start of 2013, still had no band members employed at the mine. A large part of WFN discontent was with the lack of employment benefits to the band within whose traditional territories the mine operated.
Karen Ogen, recently re-elected WFN chief, made it clear in previous comments to Lakes District News that her long-running dispute with Huckleberry was over jobs and financial compensation for access and right-of-way issues.
As of last year, WFN received $6000 annually in compensation for access through their traditional territories and reserve as part of a 1997 agreement. The financial details of the new agreement are being kept confidential, but it will be in effect until 2021.
“Today is a good day for the WFN community,” said Ogen. “To its credit, Huckleberry stayed at the negotiating table and we were able to negotiate a fair and reasonable resolution that is already benefiting our community.”