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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Mon, 29 Sep 97 14:01:09 CDT
From: MichaelP <papadop@peak.org>

Innu and Inuit win a victory
against nickel mine

Innu Nation press release, IPS, 8 September 1997

An August court ruling in favor of the Innu and Inuit of Labrador, Canada, in their fight against the Voisey's Bay nickel mine has sparked hopes of similar success among other indigenous groups in North America. I think that this is a fantastic, unexpected step in the right direction and perhaps this represents a change in the way the courts have traditionally treated indigenous issues, expressed Richard Martin of the Indigenous Environmental Network in Alaska.

Following a week of protests against the mine, on August 26th , the Newfoundland Court of Appeal ordered the Voisey's Bay Company to halt all construction pending the outcome of an appeal against work at the mine proceeding until an environmental study is complete.

I think that we have made a real breakthrough, stated Innu Nation President Katie Rich after news of the court ruling. Being here this week, in solidarity with the Inuit, we showed Inco that aboriginal people must come first. Any development on our land must be done on our terms, with our consent, she added.

It is these united actions that enable environmental and indigenous groups to fight multinational corporations, according to Zoltan Grossman of the Midwest Treaty Network (MTN), a Native American Sovereignty organization based in Wisconsin. MTN has fought its own battles against a Toronto based copper mining corporation, INMET, in Michigan. Only multinational alliances that fight for the environment and indigenous rights can effectively challenge the activities of multinational corporations, said Grossman.

Voisey's Bay Company, a subsidiary of Inco, based in Toronto, released a statement last week saying that it is still assessing the impact of the recent decision. We have not yet determined whether the temporary injunction will prevent the company from getting its exploration support work done this year.

The company wants to develop an open cast sulfide ore mine-and- mill complex at Voisey's Bay, site of the world's largest nickel find estimat ed at 150 million tonnes. The Voisey's Bay area is an important habitat for many species of animals that the Innu and Inuit hunt for food. Inco, the largest multinational nickel producer in the world, applied in May for permission to forge ahead with the construction of a road and airstrip at the site. The Innu and Inuit responded by taking their case to the Newfoundland Court Supreme Court where they sought to halt construction until an environmental assessment is complete.

According to a 1996 agreement between the Innu, the Inuit, the Canadian government, and the local government, a rigorous environmental review process of corporate activities is required on indigenous land before projects begin. Martin said that it's very important that this environmental review is completed before construction begins because the brunt of environmental devastation usually falls on the indigenous people in the area, while the corporations remain unaccountable.

Neither the Innu nor the Inuit nations were consulted before their land was invaded by this 40 billion dollar mine, commented Kevin Thomas of the Voisey's Bay - Innu Rights Coalition. Hopefully our recent court victory will spark the public debate needed about how corporations disregard the environment and indigenous rights.

Since the court ruling, protesters have decided to leave Voisey Bay and concentrate on the upcoming negotiations and legal battles.