Jeff Green | Jun 18, 2009
Back to HomeFeature Article - June 11, 2009 Shabot Obaadjiwan backs away from Frontenac VenturesBy Jeff Green
They were strange partners from the start.
An Algonquin community that was so opposed to uranium exploration that they joined a blockade, and the uranium exploration company that they blockaded. In the end the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed between them was doomed from the start.
Back in the late fall of 2008, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the Shabot Obaadjiwan, Frontenac Ventures Corporation, and the Ontario Ministries of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and Mines.
It called for the withdrawal of some lands from the Frontenac Ventures mining claim, and a limited drilling program in specific locations on other lands over which Frontenac Ventures had obtained the mining rights. It was all to be overseen by a steering committee.
From the start there were problems.
While the agreement, signed in early December, was heralded at the time by Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Brad Duguid as “an example of how by working together in a spirit of cooperation and respect, we can find creative solutions in the face of challenging situations”, the steering committee called for in the agreement never materialised.
In late January of 2009, the Shabot Obaadjiwan received confirmation that drilling had taken place on the Frontenac Ventures’ mine claim lands in June of 2008, just as the talks which led ultimately to the MoU were getting underway.
Later in February, a press release was issued by Frontenac Ventures, which was picked up in the European press. It claimed that “a large new zone” of uranium was discovered in the late fall and talked about a multi-million dollar drilling program of 43 to 101 holes that was being planned.
None of this had been disclosed to the Shabot Obaadjiwan beforehand and it is not consistent with provisions in the MoU that was being worked on as these new discoveries were reportedly being made.
On March 9, 2009, Stephen Reynolds, lawyer for the Shabot, wrote a letter to Doug Carr, a negotiations director with the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs.
After detailing their grievances concerning what had taken place in the four months since the agreement had been signed, the letter make the following assertion: “I have been instructed to advise you that in light of the above noted incidents and the fact that, at minimum, the spirit and intent of the MoU has been compromised, Shabot are withdrawing from the MoU until further notice. I am also instructed to advise you that under no circumstances will Shabot permit drilling on the impugned lands at this time. I wish to advise that Shabot is currently considering its options, which may include placing these matters before Justice Cunningham and/or returning to the land, without notice, to protect it from further drilling.”
The letter concludes by asking for a meeting, which did not take place until Thursday of last week (June 11).
The News has learned that Frontenac Ventures President George White and Project Manager Jamie Fairchild attended the meeting, as did Shabot Chief Doreen Davis and Elder Earl Badour, along with government officials. Reportedly George White was presented with the Shabot letter for the first time, and none of the outstanding issues were resolved.
Stephen Reynolds, who did not attend the meeting, told the News that he had been attempting to contact ministry officials early this week without success.
The Shabot letter was delivered to the News on Friday, June 12, and was released through the Uranium News bulk email list on June 14.
Stephen Reynolds said on Tuesday that the Shabot are now concentrating their efforts on the Government of Ontario through the Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs. “Ontario has signed the MoU and they are bound by its contents,” he said. “The substratum of the MoU is gone and we have serious doubts as to whether it can ever be reinstated.
“The province has a duty to consult. They tried to shirk us off on Frontenac. At the end of the day, we are dealing with Ontario. We are saying, Ontario, you have a duty to consult; talk to us.”
The possibility of court action is something that the Shabot are considering, Reynolds added. “We acted in good faith. We acted honourably, and we were misled,” he concluded.
The Shabot Obaadjiwan letter to Doug Carr is posted on the website of Concerned Citizens against Mining Uranium (CCAMU) at CCAMU.ca under the Uranium News heading for June 14.
(Editor’s note: as of Tuesday night we were unable to reach George White for comment.)