Recently, there was a post on Twitter by a member of the Attawapiskat First Nation, that he had seen an agreement between the First Nations and Metalex, a company run by Chuck Fipke, concerning the approval to move ahead with exploration. This agreement has been in the works for many years, but, the groups involved couldn’t come to an agreement. In reporting on the story, Stockwatch reporter, Will Purcell indicated that the company was having trouble coming to an exploration agreement and Chuck Fipke was blaming the reason that one of their potential partners backed away was due to the delay in getting the First Nations groups to sign the agreement.
My initial reaction was of disappointment, I was hoping, the Attawapiskat First Nation and Marten Falls First Nation, never sign an agreement allowing Metalex to move forward. This issue has been festering for many years with me. When problems arose several years ago, I contacted Chuck Fipke after I had been contacted by people with close knowledge of the issues that there were problems because Chuck basically gave the First Nations groups an ultimatum to do it his way or no way. But, instead of being truthful, Chuck Fipke assured me that there were no problems and insisted that he had a great relationship with the First Nations in the area.
My mom used to tell me, give most people enough rope and they will hang themselves. I gave Chuck Fipke a chance to be straight with me and he chose to mislead me. The bigger issue is his attitude toward the First Nations around his diamond project in Ontario. The long delay in coming to an agreement makes me certain that the problem is Chuck Fipke and an attitude toward First Nations that the mining industry needs to get rid of. The attitude is that mining companies should just be able to do whatever they want and disregard the concerns of First Nations in the areas where their projects are located.
De Beers has never been the most friendly mining company to the local aboriginal people where they have mines, initially, they had problems at their Victor Mine in the Attawapiskat region. But, even they were able to get an agreement to build a mine. Metalex, run by Chuck Fipke, has taken forever to get an agreement for exploration. There is a very serious problem here, and I find it pretty bold for Chuck Fipke to blame the First Nations groups.
You would think that resource companies would learn lessons as they have seen the situation of the rights of First Nations for consultation from the fiasco that the Hunter Dickenson Inc. company, Taseko Mines Ltd. which is lead by Russel Hallbauer had for their Taseko project near Williams Lake, BC. They took a very hardline attitude, which reminds me of the bad old days in the mining business when companies just walked over any concerns the First Nations have in areas where they have projects.
Guys like Russel Hallbauer and Chuck Fipke don’t seem to understand the reality of the changing times. It is clear from court rulings, resource companies have a responsibility to undertake meaningful consultation. This doesn’t mean talking to First Nations, hearing their concerns and then just moving ahead without regard for those concerns. This right to meaningful consultation is a right enshrined in the constitution, it can’t legally be ignored.
The mining business is already struggling, the last thing the industry needs are companies run by people that think they can just run roughshod over First Nations. The resource industry got away with it for a long time, but, those days are over.
If I were advising the First Nations groups that have to deal with Chuck Fipke and Metalex, I would tell them to tell him he will never get an agreement from them. Then I would take them to court for besmirching the reputation of the First Nations groups. I would also petition the government to boot them off the project. It is in the traditional land of these First Nations and Chuck Fipke and his company have come in and acted without respect for their constitutionally protected rights.
I would give the same advice to any First Nations group in areas where Metalex is involved. I would also recommend to the Inuit up near Rankin Inlet in Nunavut that they should be careful concerning Dunnedin Ventures as Chuck Fipke is an advisor. I was a former advisor to Dunnedin Ventures and have concerns about Chris Taylor who runs the company who is enamored with Chuck Fipke and seems to want to follow in his footsteps.
If you look at the news release when Chuck Fipke was announced as an advisor to Dunnedin Ventures. It is clear that Chris Taylor holds Chuck Fipke in high regard, and I’m afraid that he will follow in his footsteps concerning First Nations issues. I have a particular concern because when I was with Dunnedin Ventures, I was told that when it comes to relationship building with the Inuit, the company would follow my leadership. I went up to Rankin Inlet this past summer, I met with several of the Inuit people and groups and made comments about the focus of Dunnedin Ventures concerning respect, consultation, and inclusion. Now that I’m no longer with Dunnedin Ventures, and the company is being advised by someone enamored with Chuck Fipke, I no longer have any confidence that Dunnedin Ventures will follow my guidance on how to do things the right way concerning how to make things a win-win for the company and affected Inuit.
As an industry, I believe we have a responsibility to bring these issues to light. First Nations throughout Canada need the jobs, mining companies need the mines. It’s time for big changes.
All the best,
Allan Barry Laboucan