Norway House community members voice concerns on potential northern Manitoba nickel mine

Members of Norway House Cree Nation raised concerns about information sharing, environmental impacts and community employment at a consultation for a potential nickel mine in the area. 

Last Thursday, Flying Nickel Mining Corporation and the Government of Manitoba hosted a public consultation around the Minago Nickel Project — a possible development following a memorandum of understanding that was signed by the First Nation’s chief and Flying Nickel in February. The mine could be under construction starting in 2024.

At the consultation, former Norway House councillor Samantha Folster said that the potential mine could impact band members’ trapping practices and disrupt the surrounding environment. 

Folster also raised concerns that information surrounding the development lacked clarity.

“I think there needs to be a clear understanding of what’s going to be happening in regards to our land and our water because I don’t agree with this mine at this time,” she said.

“There’s not enough information and it’s moving too fast and quick without even allowing people to understand what’s going on.”

Band member Steven Robertson also voiced concerns regarding a lack of clarity, as well as making note of First Nation employment promises from the past that did not come true.

“Many times when projects are put in place, the people are left out,” he said.

Flying Nickel Chief Operating Officer Robert Van Drunen speaks at the public consultation in Norway House Cree Nation. (Ethan Butterfield/CBC)

Chief Larson Anderson of Norway House Cree Nation also agreed that more transparency was needed, both during the project’s lifetime and following its completion.

“We need to put the province to the task of convincing us that what they are going to approve is something that will be protected,” he said.

A spokesperson from Manitoba’s Department of Natural Resources and Northern Development said at the consultation the province will make a decision after considering “all the concerns and issues raised by the First Nation,” but that ultimately it’s up to the province to issue a permit for the project or not.

Norway House involvement necessary: Flying Nickel

Robert Van Drunen, chief operating officer for Flying Nickel, said that the project will not be moving forward without Norway House on board in all aspects.

“There is no mining project without Norway House Cree Nation.”

Norway House Cree Nation Chief Larson Anderson speaks at a band council meeting on Nov. 16. (Ethan Butterfield/CBC)

Van Drunen said there could be around 422 jobs for First Nations during the course of the potential project’s operation lifetime, which is set at 10 years.

Van Drunen hopes to apply for available funding for training to help and bring Indigenous members on board, saying “if there’s training for qualified people, 100 per cent of people will be Indigenous at the mine site.”

As for environmental issues, the use of more electrically-operated equipment and a focus on water flow protection are some of the areas that Flying Nickel will explore to lower environmental impact.

Though this was the first official public consultation, Flying Nickel has been engaging with Norway House Cree Nation leadership since August of 2021. 

Flying Nickel has also been in contact with Pimicikimak Cree Nation (Cross Lake), Mosakahiken Cree Nation (Moose Lake) and Misipawistik Cree Nation (Grand Rapids), according to the company.

Community engagement officially occurred with Grand Rapids on June 7. However, the other three communities had their engagements postponed for various unrelated matters.

Van Drunen said that the organization will be finished the project’s plan by end of November, and it will be available for public viewing in January of the new year.

Community engagement sessions will continue regarding the nickel mine, though no future dates have been confirmed as of yet through Flying Nickel or Norway House Cree Nation leadership.

The Minago Nickel Project is set to be located adjacent to Highway 6, about 225 kilometres south of Thompson and 100 kilometres north of Grand Rapids. The land sits within Norway House’s resource management area.