Ontario junior explorer Platinex has filed a lawsuit against the Ontario Government allegedly for failing in its duty to warn of potential access problems to mining concessions on the Platinex Big Trout Lake Property, and reported failure enforce the law around the claims.
In March, six members of the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inniuwug (KI) First Nation were sentenced to six months in jail after ignoring a court injunction allowing Platinex to commence drilling on what the KI band insists is traditional territory.
Platinex claims that the Ontario provincial government failed to consult with KI and it breached its duty to warn the company that the government would not enforce the law concerning access to the Platinex mining claims. The junior explorer holds 221 unpatented mining claims and 81 mining leases covering 12,880 acres of the Nemeigusabins Lake Arm of Big Trout Lake. James Trusler, President and CEO, has estimated that the company has spent Cdn$5 million on what they believe is a major chromium deposit.
In their claims, Platinex officials asserted that Ontario Minister of Northern Development and Mines (MNDM) and its Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) should have fulfilled its obligation to consult with aboriginal peoples in relation to exploration activity that may take place under the Mining Act.
The plaintiffs have requested general damages in the amount of Cdn$50 million and special damage of $20 million.
Notwithstanding that the obligation belongs to Ontario and not to Platinex, Platinex has engaged in substantial discussions and consultations with KI over a number of years in an effort to seek input from KI respecting its Aboriginal values, to accommodate KI's concerns and to discharge Ontario's obligation to consultant, according to the complaint. Platinex said it has maintained regular contact with various tribal organizations, the Band Council, and other KI officials.
Therefore, Platinex said Ontario has been unjustly enriched by Platinex's efforts to satisfy Ontario's obligation to consult in light of Ontario's past failures to discharge its constitutional obligation to consult. Platinex is in law entitled to be reimbursed for the expenses incurred as a result of its discharge of Ontario's obligation to consult.
Platinex said its most recent attempt to access its mining claims had to be abandoned when a large number of the KI community assembled en masse and prevented Platinex employees and contractors from leaving the airport in Big Trout Lake for the purpose of accessing the property. KI threatened to arrest and imprison Platinex's representatives if they either entered the community or attempted to access the property.
On December 14, 2007, a Thunder Bay court found Donny Morris, Jack McKay, Bruce Sakakeep, Darryl Sainnawap, Cecila Begg, Samuel McKay, Enus McKay and Evelyn Quequish in contempt. They have now been jailed for more than two month.
Arnold Norman Yellowman, a member of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation near Sarnia, Ontario, told the Sault Star that he is insured by the actions of the KI 6 to keep Platinex from starting exploratory work near his community. If we continue to have mining or any other industry come through our land, exploit it, and jeopardize our ecosystems, it's really going to have a big impact on our future.
Jon Baird, President of Canada's Prospectors and Development Association of Canada, said the jailing of the KI 6 was sad and disappointing. We hoped that the decision to take resource with the courts could be avoided. ...There should have been scope for an amicable, mutually beneficial, negotiated resolution to the dispute without it escalating in the present, unfortunate outcome.
However, in its lawsuit, Platinex asserted that the company was never warned by Ontario or any MNDM employee that any attempt to exercise its exploration rights and obligations under its claims and leases were at risk of being frustrated by Ontario's failure to discharge its obligation to consult or that Ontario was unable or unwilling to enforce the rule of law in the Big Trout Lake area.
Instead, Platinex claimed that John Gammon, Assistant Deputy Minister, Mines and Mineral Division, MNDM, told the company that there would be no further exclusions provided from Platinex's claims based on First Nations concerns. Mr. Gammon knew or ought to have known that his statements would be relied upon by Platinex and that his statements compelled Platinex to attempt to commence exploration activities on its claims at Big Trout Lake.