First Nations Reap Benefits From Gold Mine

Chief Ron Ignace of the Skeetchestn Indian Band

Two southern B.C. Interior First Nations have received their first dividend from taxation on a mining operation on their traditional territory thanks to a new mine-revenue sharing agreement between the Secwepemc and Skeetchestn Indian bands, the New Gold Inc. mining company, and the provincial government. Under the terms of their Economic and Community Development Agreement (ECDA), the First Nations will split $730,000—almost three-quarters of a million dollars—now that New Gold’s New Afton Mine has completed its first year of production.

Chief Ron Ignace of the Skeetchestn said the dividend lays the foundation for economic self-reliance is a positive step towards self determination for First Nations. “With these revenues, it’s a way of reconciling our two sovereignties, the Secwepemc (a.k.a. Shuswap) and the provincial crown, our democratic right to self-determination, and lays the foundation of our capacity for self reliance,” said Ignace.

Ignace said the two First Nations have also negotiated a separate arrangement with the mine for 2% of the Net Smelter Returns (NSR). The price of gold fluctuates, but returns are expected to be comparable to the tax revenue. New Afton is New Gold’s newest operating mine; it commenced production in July 2012 ahead of schedule. New Afton is an underground block-caving mine, producing an annual average of 75 million pounds of copper and 80,000 ounces of gold over 12 years. The mine is located just 10 kilometres west of Kamloops. About 25% of the workforce is Aboriginal.

“This is not about the money,” said Chief Ignace. “What this is about is bringing dignity back to our people and honour back to the Crown.” Since the historic ECDA was signed with the Secwepemc and Skeetchestn Indian bands in 2010, the BC government has signed nine more mine revenue-sharing agreements covering five operating mines.