The Łııdlı̨́ı̨́ Kųę First Nation (LKFN) and NorZinc signed on Aug. 10 two impact benefit agreements (IBAs) related to the proposed Prairie Creek Mine and all-season road in the Dehcho region, LKFN said in a news release Aug. 11.
The accords update one of the IBAs negotiated in 2011 and finalize a new Road Benefits Agreement for a community with ties to the all-season road.
The silver-zinc-lead mine is located about 200 kilometres west of Fort Simpson and inside the Nahanni National Park Reserve, but in an area excluded from the reserve, NorZinc states on its website.
The all-season road will eventually be connected with Highway 7, which leads into British Columbia.
The latest agreements solidify commitments that ensure LKFN and its members benefit from the mine project, such as through opportunities for Indigenous-owned businesses to participate in projects associated with the mine.
They also include assurances of training and Dene employment. An environmental monitoring program will ensure Dene-led environmental protection and environmental oversight.
A trust fund for projects to benefit LKFN in the long term will be developed based on benefits from the agreements.
LKFN Chief Gerald Antoine hailed the deals as momentous for the community and NorZinc.
“The Dene of Łııdlı̨́ı̨́ Kųę never surrendered our land. So, major development projects within our shared Dene territory, like the proposed Prairie Creek Mine and all-season road, need to ensure environmental protection of our lands and benefits for the Dene people,” Antoine said. “Dene involvement in environmental decision-making and meaningful economic participation is key to reconciliation and the ultimate success of any project on Dene lands.”
NorZinc president and CEO Rohan Hazelton said the partnership with LKFN will see benefits flow directly to the First Nation while respecting the land and LKFN culture.
“I thank the chief and leadership of LKFN in supporting the Prairie Creek project and look forward to our continued partnership in realizing the benefits to all LKFN members,” said Hazelton.
Scott Gordon, chief operating officer of LKFN’s business arm Nogha Enterprises, said the organization is excited with the results of years of negotiations with NorZinc.
“The signing of these agreements secures significant long-term benefits for Nogha Enterprises Ltd., Łııdlı̨́ı̨́ Kųę First Nation and the Dene region as a whole,” he said.
The agreements come almost three years after NorZinc signed an IBA with the Naha Dehe Dene Band of Nahanni Butte, the closest community to the mine project, which lies in the band’s traditional territory.
The mine is projected to have a 15-year life with average concentrated metals estimated at 47.6 million kg of lead, almost 44 million kg of zinc and 2.1 million ounces of silver for the first 10 years, according to 2017 feasibility study by NorZinc.