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Fond-du-Lac Band Hesitant: Eldorado Negotiates For Uranium Rights

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      JUNE/JULY 1977      v07 n06 p05  
FOND-DU-LAC - Eldorado Nuclear Ltd. is trying to persuade the Fond-du-Lac band to give it the right to search for uranium on one of the band's reserves.

But the band is reluctant to give the company this right and has postponed a decision until at least the end of June.

Eldorado officials visited the far-northern community of about 400 June 14 in an attempt to convince the residents exploration would benefit the band.

Eldorado spokesman Dave Fountain told a band members meeting the least the band could expect would be payment of rent and compensation for environmental damage caused by exploration crews.

But were the company to discover a uranium deposit which could be mined, the band could receive from a high grade deposit - as much as 45 per cent of Eldorado's profit in royalties. And that, Fountain claimed, could amount to as much as $2 million annually.

Since 1975 the band has received more than $5,500 in rent from Eldorado for exploration on reserve land immediately adjacent to the land which the company now wants to explore.

Fountain said "encouraging" results indicating the presence of some uranium have been obtained from exploration to date. But he said privately only better results on the property on which Eldorado is now seeking exploration rights would lead to mine development.

Eldorado obtained exploration rights on the adjacent reserve land when the Fond-du-Lac band received it as part of its unfulfilled land entitlement in 1975.

A subsidiary of Amok Ltd., which is developing a uranium mine at Cluff Lake about 100 miles southwest of here, was guaranteed it could maintain its mineral exploration rights when the land was transferred to the band. These rights were guaranteed by the federal and provincial governments and the band.

Under Canadian foreign ownership regulations the French-owned Amok invited Eldorado to become two-thirds partner in the exploration venture.

John Goddard, spokesman for the department of Indian affairs' (DIA) Indian minerals division, told band members reserve exploration "is a good idea if you are interested in money and job opportunities."

But "if you want to preserve, the land in its natural state than it is a bad idea," Goddard said.

Chief August Mercredi replied that he didn't feel the band was ready to, sign an agreement for exploration.

Mercredi said the band council would have to set an appropriate rent and Eldorado would have to guarantee that band members would be given the first opportunity for jobs.

The reserve where the exploration would take place is located on the south shore of Lake Athabasca directly across from Fond-du-Lac village.

Traditionally, when a band wants mineral development, DIA has insisted that the band agree to a conditional "surrender" which would give the department power to negotiate with the interested company the terms and conditions of development.

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Members of the Fond-du-Lac band
Members of the Fond-du-Lac band attending a meeting in that northern community discuss Eldorado's proposals for uranium exploration on reserve land.


Fond-du-Lac Band Hesitant: Eldorado Negotiates For Uranium Rights

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      JUNE/JULY 1977      v07 n06 p06  
Goddard said the department would negotiate nothing without full consultation with - and approval of - the band.

The federal government interpreting the Indian Act does not recognize a band council as a legal entity for purposes of negotiating mineral exploration and development agreements.

A similar surrender proposal for mineral exploration rights on the Red Earth reserve east of Nipawin caused consternation among FSI and band officials earlier.

Goddard told Fond-du-Lac residents Eldorado would make a proposal to the band council and DIA would assist the council in evaluating whether payments and compensation are "fair or not high enough."

Although several councillors expressed interest in the jobs the development might create, some band members were critical of the proposed project.

One of the younger band members attending the meeting said after exploration and possible development "all that will remain will be scars and remains."

He asked many Indian people will have supervisory roles and charged that the people will be left without jobs once the project is completed.

"I think the land will be destroyed, the lakes will be polluted and the people will be left with nothing."

Eldorado and Amok have budgeted $750,000 for exploration along 40 miles of the south shoreline of Lake Athabasca. The area is similar geologically to those areas where the Collins Bay, Key Lake and Cluff Lake ore bodies have been discovered.

Dave Fountain
Dave Fountain
...seeks approval
Chief August Mercredi
Fond-du-Lac Chief August Mercredi told Eldorado the band was reluctant to grant immediate approval of exploration rights. Mercredi said a decision would be made soon.