By Jeremy Appel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – The Kainai and Siksika Nations have filed letters with the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada, arguing a coal company is misrepresenting their relationship with it, the Canadian Press reports.
Montem Resources claims its consultation with 14 First Nations on its proposed Tent Mountain project, which would build a metallurgical coal mine on a previously-mined area of the eastern slopes of the southern Rockies, has been continuous since 2017.
But the Siksika and Kainai nations say in similarly-worded letters they haven’t met with the company since July and “it is no longer accurate to represent the relationship as amounting to meaningful consultation.”
In Montem’s project description submitted to the review agency, it says the company “is confident that any potential impacts to Indigenous peoples’ physical or cultural heritage, current uses of the lands, structures [or] sites will be identified and understood.”
The nations say Montem offered them $275,000 to fund impact studies in exchange for withdrawing their request for a federal review.
“Montem and Kainai have not developed a positive working relationship,” says the letter from that nation.
“This is primarily because Montem’s approach to consultation has been transactional, informal and not reflective of an adequate respect for Kainai’s treaty rights and our deep cultural connection to the Crowsnest Pass.”
Siksika Chief Ouray Crowfoot wrote that Montem isn’t making efforts to have “meaningful consultation with Siksika.”
Montem CEO Peter Doyle told CP that he appreciates the two bands’ concerns.
“The Kanai and Siksika Nations have expressed their dissatisfaction with Montem’s current efforts at engagement,” wrote Doyle. “We take that to heart and will work with these First Nations to rectify the situation.
“Montem fully recognizes its need and obligation for meaningful consultation.”
The two nations also criticized the company for leaving out of its submission the fact that there is already a proposal to build an adjacent coal mine right across the border in British Columbia.
The letter from Kainai says the nation learned about a proposal from Montem to potentially replace the coal mine with a renewable energy project through the media.
The Tent Mountain project is one of the proposals that came about after the UCP government rescinded the 1976 coal policy, which prohibited open-pit mining in the eastern slopes of the Rockies.
That policy has since been reinstated after public outcry from First Nations, ranchers, environmentalists and country singers, who were concerned about its impact on the region’s water supply.