Gull Bay First Nation issues ‘traffic advisory’ Monday as talks with Lac Des Iles mine owners resume

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Community leaders in a northwestern Ontario First Nation near Thunder Bay, Ont., have issued a “traffic advisory” Monday as talks are slated to resume with owners of a nearby mine.

But representatives for Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek, also known as Gull Bay First Nation, say their activities are not a blockade or protest, rather initiatives of “traditional teaching and experimental activities.”

“These events may potentially inconvenience traffic located in our southern territory around the Lac Des Iles Mine area for an undetermined amount of time,” Chief Wilfred King was quoted as saying in a written release.

On Friday, Ontario Provincial Police advised of a “traffic disruption” on the private access road into the mine, which is located about 100 kilometres north of Thunder Bay. The First Nation denied that its members are slowing or blocking traffic on Highway 527 or a nearby decommissioned logging road.

The advisory comes as Gull Bay’s leadership said it expects to meet again Monday with representatives of North American Palladium, who owns the mine. In a statement, King said the talks are meant to address “collective issues.”

The statement went on to say that the community has “experienced first hand, the negative impacts of area mining activities that have been historically carried out with little regard for, and in violation of, our rights,” adding that Gull Bay has concerns over the environment, state of the land and control of revenue generated from its territory.

“When a community has access to its own resources and wealth from its lands, all other issues such as health, housing education, become non-issues,” King’s statement said, adding that he hopes “today’s talks are as positive as those to which were engaged in prior to the (weekend) break.”

The First Nation added that it has not stopped food, medical supplies and mine rescue vehicles from accessing the mine and that staff of the nearby Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry firefighting base at Rinker Lake are still allowed access.

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