The Sudbury Star
Ontario cannot be held responsible for the failure of mining claims filed by a Sudbury-based exploration company in northwestern Ontario, the provincial government says in a statement of defence.
Instead, the government says it was the failure of Northern Superior Resources and the Sachigo Lake First Nation to strike a deal that led to the company walking away from the mining claims in 2012.
The government filed the statement of defence in response to a $110-million lawsuit Northern Superior Resources has brought against the province.
Northern Superior Resources wants another $15 million from the province it says it spend on developing its Thorne Lake, Meston Lake and Rapson Bay gold properties.
In addition, the company’s lawsuit is also seeking a declaration by the province that it failed to consult with First Nations as required by law and that Northern Superior Resources experienced damages as a result.
The company alleges the province failed to consult properly with Sachigo Lake First Nation, and that led it to abandon the mining claims.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
The province says in its statement of defence that Northern Superior’s suit is without merit and should be dismissed.
“The Crown has a duty to consult First Nations, and where appropriate accommodate their interests, when the Crown has real or constructive knowledge that a proposed decision or activity might adversely affect Aboriginal or treaty rights," the province says in its statement of defence. "(Northern Superior) seeks to rely on this duty to consult, alleging that Ontario failed to consult adequately with (Sachigo Lake First Nation).
"Contrary to (Northern Superior’s) assertions, any and all duties to consult (Sachigo Lake First Nation) with respect to (Northern Superior's) mining claims were satisfied.
"In any event, the duty to consult is a constitutional obligation owed to Aboriginal peoples, not to third parties. Even if there had been a failure to consult adequately with (Sachigo Lake First Nation), which is not admitted but denied, no liability to (Northern Superior) would result.
"The source of (Northern Superior's) decision to abandon work on its mining claims was not a failure to consult, but SLFN's insistence on terms that (Northern Superior) was not prepared to meet. Ontario cannot be held responsible for either (Sachigo Lake First Nation’s) demands or (Northern Superior’s) decision to reject them.
"(Northern Superior's) claim for compensation from Ontario is therefore without merit, and its action should be dismissed."
Northern Superior Resources is a junior exploration company exploring for gold in Quebec and Ontario in the Stull-Wunnumin and Chibougamou-Chapais gold districts.
In a statement, the company said it is now reviewing its response to the statement of defence with legal counsel and will be providing an update to investors.
In October, Thomas Morris, Northern Superior Resources’s chief executive officer and president, said in a release the circumstances that led to the lawsuit were primarily the result of the actions and policies of the province relating to First Nations and, in particular, the province's failure to discharge its duty to consult with First Nations in the area where the properties are situated.
"We are extremely disappointed that circumstances have caused us to react to such drastic measures," said Morris. "However, we want to assure all shareholders and stakeholders that this action against the Government of Ontario will in no way diminish the company's commitment to exploration and advancement of its other mineral properties such as its TPK gold property in northwestern Ontario, or its Croteau Est and newly acquired Grizzly properties near Chibougamou, Quebec.
“Northern Superior cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of the relationships developed with its other First Nation partners with whom the company has negotiated working agreements."
. . . .
The statement of defence as well as the statement of claim can be viewed on the Northern Superior Resources website at www.nsuperior.com under the "Claim" tab.
- Sachigo Lake First Nation is located 425 km north of Sioux Lookout.