The Whitefish First Nation of Ontario, Canada has just instituted a claim for $550 billion against the Ontario and Canadian governments - about $1 billion per tribe member. The basis of the claim is that the 1850 treaty between the tribe and the Crown promised more land for the tribe than was actually set aside in 1885. Apparently new historical information has come to light to substantiate the tribe’s claim to the land. Hence they claim billions as their share of the mining profits since 1850.
The area of Ontario primarily involved is Sudbury where Inco mines. Recall that Vale - Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, a Brazilian mining company, previously called CVRD, now owns Inco. No indication if the mining company is or will be affected by a successful claim.
The point of this new claim relative to the interests and concerns of the average investor, is that this new First Nation’s claim is but a harbinger of a more aggressive attack by the aboriginal communities of Ontario and Canada on the right to the mining resources of the country. Hopefully these claims will have no impact on investment in exploration and progress to successful mining in Ontario.
But the Cassandra in me prompts me to advise you to consider very carefully before putting your retirement funds into any exploration or mining venture in Ontario - at least until the dust of this new fracas has cleared and we see the implication or absence thereof.
Keep in mind that Ontario is being pushed hard to change the laws regarding the right of exploration companies to go on land claimed by the aboriginals. The most vicious manifestation of the problem is the incarceration of Bob Lovelace an Ardoch Algonquin co-chief. He protested the activities of a Vancouver exploration company seeking minerals (uranium) on lands claimed by the tribe. He fell foul of a judge who ordered him to desist, and when he did not, the judge threw him in jail for six months, reminding him that the law of Canada prevailed, not the so-called law of the Algonquin which Lovelace describes as the Law of Creation.
As investors, these arcane disputes between judges and professors (Lovelace is a professor at a local university) need not concern us from a jurisprudential perspective. But they do affect the potential profit we can make from mining-related investments. And as I said above, personally I am pessimistic: I believe these moves to change the laws of Canada, the distribution of rights to its minerals, the people who can say yes or no to a new mine, and the people who will have to be paid the royalties, will have a profound affect on the progress and success of mining in places like Ontario and Brazil for a while to come.