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Whitesand First Nation orders stop to mineral exploration in its territory

May 1, 2023

The Whitesand First Nation in Northwestern Ontario is taking issue with the Doug Ford government's approach to mining and has ordered a stop to all mining exploration in its traditional territory.

"A halt is now in place for further mineral exploration in our traditional territory until further notice,” declared Chief Allan Gustafson.

Seven companies were identified by Chief Gustafson that are currently conducting mineral exploration in the area.
Chief Allan Gustafson gave notice of Whitesand work stop order in a letter to Mines Minister George Pirie, Northern Development & Indigenous Affairs Ministers Greg Rickford, and Environment, Conservation and Parks Minister David Piccini.

The letter refers to mining companies failure to consult before embarking on their exploration in Whitesand's traditional homeland. Chief Gustafson called  the approach by Ontario to legal requirement's on prior consent and its duty to consult and accommodate First Nations “minimal.”

First Nations in Northern Ontario have expressed concerns about the increased disrespect shown towards signatories of Treaty 9 which enshrines a nation to nation relationship between the Province of Ontario and the signers of the Treaty 9

"Mining is proceeding at an advanced pace, without ensuring the concerns, participation and inclusion of First Nations are part of a meaningful partnership or strategy," said Chief Gustafson.

Last week Chiefs from 10 Northern Ontario communities launched a lawsuit seeking $95 billion in damages from the provincial and federal government for Treaty 9 First Nations and injunctions to prevent the two levels of government from engaging in mining developments on the treaty lands without the consent of the First Nations.

Chiefs from 10 communities in Northern Ontario launched lawsuit, stating the Crown can't make unilateral land decisions. The 10 Communities are part of Treaty 9.

In a statement announcing the lawsuit, the ten Chiefs stated: "The only way mining projects can proceed in the mineral-rich Ring of Fire is with their participation as full partners. "

Treaty 9 recognizes nation to nation relations between the Province of Ontario and the 12 First Nations who signed the treaty.


Chief Gustafson said Whitesand is  prepared to be a partner in development and ensure the prosperity of community members and future generations, but that its message to Premier Doug Ford is that the First Nation and its homeland "will not be exploited."

The community has an on-reserve population of about 300 and is located 250 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, near Armstrong. 

The Whitesand First Nation said the work that's proceeding at various stages is taking place without proper engagement with the community at the same time as the government is moving ahead with Bill 71 —  the Building More Mines Act — which it said will only further complicate the issue.

George Pirie, Ontario Minister of Mines introduced the legislation earlier this year is intended to expedite the development of mines.

“It shouldn’t take 15 years to open a mine,” Minister of Mines George Pirie has stated on previous occasions in support of the proposed changes to the Ontario Mining Act. 

Minister Pirie also stated that the process is too-time consuming and costly, leading to project delays and lost opportunities for Ontario’s mineral exploration and mining sector.

Canadian Mining Expo 2023 will host a conference on Critical Minerals & Indigenous Partnership: “Rethinking the Future” sponsored by the Wabun Tribal Council. Many of the issues raised by Whitesand First Nations and the Treaty 9 lawsuit will be addressed during the forum. For more information click on the link.


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